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MacEdition Pro News : March 11, 2003

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No strings attached

If we can hop into our Wayback Machine and transport ourselves back to New York’s Javits Center nearly four years ago we’d be able to once again watch Apple vice president Phil Schiller take a 30-foot noser off the stage in a demonstration of the amazing AirPort 802.11b wireless networking technology.

Just about every geek who saw the technology back in those heady pre-dot-bomb days thought of the potential of a wireless planet and all the really “kewl” things that might be done with it. Well it’s taken its time to come about, but in the past couple of days we’ve been seeing some really “rad” stuff coming to market for the wireless set.

Wireless world coming soon?

Toshiba is looking to use 802.11b as the cornerstone to a wireless planet through its newly announced wireless service package.

The company’s Hotspot solution is being aimed at operators of coffee shops, hotels and other public spots, where for a small fee users can hook up to the network and surf the Web, check their email or connect to their home machines. Toshiba expects to have up to 10,000 Hotspot locations running its hardware by the end of this year.

“Toshiba aims to be the dominant supplier of 802.11b hotspot infrastructure and expects a considerable portion of the established public WiFi market to be driven by hotspot operators and location owners capitalizing on the hotspot trend,” said Oscar Koenders, Toshiba’s vice president of product marketing and worldwide product planning of the Computer Systems Group.

“Wireless connectivity in public venues enables new ways to conduct business and is a convenient and easy way of obtaining information quickly with high-speed Web surfing,” he said. “We’re committed to proliferating the number of access points across the country with easy-to-use technology and services through Toshiba’s mobile computing leadership.”

The Hotspot network works by allowing users to buy an access card which gives them access privileges to one location for a 24-hour period. Toshiba has contracted Accenture to handle business and operational support covering everything from network operation to end-user support. Anybody interested in hooking up with Toshiba can link to the company’s Hotspot page.

Strike while the iron’s hot

Hewlett-Packard is giving away one-day access cards for wireless hotspots as part of a promotion to put more iPaqs in the hands of realtors across the US.

HP, which ditched its Jornada handhelds when it merged with Compaq, has put together a couple of bundles built around the popular PocketPC product which include the Pocket Real Estate software and the access card which is good at any Starbucks coffee house. The Seattle-based chain has 2,100 of its US locations wired for hotspot access.

Mobile hotspot service was officially launched in Starbucks coffeehouses by HP, T-Mobile and Starbucks last August. Backed by T-1 connections, real estate professionals and other customers can check email, surf the Web, watch streaming video or download multimedia presentations while enjoying their favorite coffee beverage in the comfort of participating Starbucks locations and other T-Mobile locations via a fast, reliable, standards-based wireless Internet connection. For real estate professionals, the T-Mobile HotSpot service also allows them to quickly gain access to information – and credibility with clients – in a real estate transaction.

HotSpot access can also be found in 2,000 other locations in the US which include airports, airline clubs and Borders Books.

Radio station in your pocket

Two American companies are combining their efforts to showcase a cell-phone radio station solution at a wireless trade show to be held in New Orleans later this month.

ADC and Vanu Inc. combined to display Vanu’s Software Radio with ADC’s radio-over-fibre hardware. The two companies believe their offering will provide wireless telco operators a way to boost their revenue stream without incorporating new equipment and standards to their infrastructure.

“This technology should have all wireless carriers asking questions about how it can help their networks,” said Gary Spedaliere, director of product management for ADC’s Wireless Business Unit. “Our approach puts the remote transceiver at radiating points in the network, allowing all signal processing to be done at the host end. With existing, or soon to be deployed base station hotels, carriers can deliver the coverage and capacity their customers demand right now. Plus, in the future, carriers can easily deploy new technologies because the digital RF transport is in place.”

The demonstration will use a GSM base station, but the software does work with 802.11 networks in addition to the TDMA and GPRS technologies used by digital phone providers. The two companies expect their first radio sign-on will occur this summer when Mid-Tex Cellular kicks off its trial run of the radio service.

Smile for the phone

While we all know of Apple’s desire to make the Mac the hub of your digital lifestyle, it seems Sony Ericsson is taking a play out Apple’s playbook.

The phone giant released its newest mobile phone – the T610 – which incorporates a digital camera and will let users take and upload photos with the phone over phone networks or via Bluetooth.

That Bluetooth feature is bound to get the juices flowing amongst the creative set of AppleScripters back in Cupertino who have been having a jolly time playing around with Salling Software’s Sony Ericsson Clicker - that nifty bit of software we told you about previously, which turns the phone into a remote control for your Mac.

It seems some intrepid individuals in the mothership got ahold of this program and have been giving it a workout by devising their own set of scripts for the program. The scripts are now part of a demonstration to teach people how to create AppleScripts and make them do useful things.

Which sort of brings us full circle, as it were. Geez, Louise, another column like this and some people might confuse it with another of James Burke’s gigs.

Mitsumi gets long in the ’tooth

Mitsumi Electronics Corp. will begin shipping a Bluetooth USB adapter this month which will give your Mac a 100-meter (~110 yards) range for connecting with any compatible Bluetooth device.

The Class 1 device, which retails at US$63.99, features a hinge which allows the transceiver to flip up so the unit is less likely to get caught on surrounding clutter.

Mitsumi will also be shipping a shorter-ranged Class 2 device which will transfer information at up to 723Kbps at a range of 10 meters (~33 feet). That unit carries a retail sticker of US$39.99.

Both units will ship with Mitusmi’s WIDCOMM software to mange devices on a Bluetooth network. Minimum system requirements call for a 300MHz processor and Mac OS X 10.2. The devices will also be Windows-compatible.

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