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Column 11/09/04

Column - Teresa From the Desk of Teresa von Fuchs: Infectious Enthusiasm
By Teresa von Fuchs

I was fortunate enough to encounter two such enthusiasts a couple of weeks ago at the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment show in San Francisco. The first was a product from Seattle-based Junxion, innovatively called the Junxion Box. I had the pleasure of speaking with John Daly, VP of business development & marketing, about it, and will any day now test one out. The product grew out of the need a few cellular (self described) geeks discovered while building 3G networks in the great northwest—the limited access capabilities of PC Cards. Thus Junxion and its box were born. The basic idea is a Wi-Fi access point that instead of transmitting wired access over 802.11, extends cellular connectivity over 802.11. The box looks similar (though with a hipper design) to your standard access point (including cable ports), but it also has a PC Card slot, enabling truly wireless access to any 802.11 enabled device or devices. Junxion promises no software is necessary, and once linked to the Junxion Box, users can also perform local area networking tasks like file sharing and network printing through Junxion’s Web-based Device Manager. The box is compatible with all major cellular networks and PC Card modems. And without yet trying it, I’m sold. The brilliant thing is that it is truly a mobile and wireless solution. Most access points require a hardwire connection, but Junxion has removed that obstacle. As 802.11 radios are installed in more and more devices, this is exactly the kind of mobile hotspot/converged network solution that is the wireless dream fulfilled. While meeting cost cutting criteria as well—the multiple use of a single PC Card saves enterprises big time on subscription fees, and allows connectivity to devices that don’t include PCMCIA slots. The need for this new brand of device is only in the early stages of being realized. Dave Shields, senior manager of subscriber equipment and accessories at Sprint PCS, says, “the biggest advantage we see is our customers on the road can ‘dock’ their PCMCIA cards and utilize the common Wi-Fi protocol supplied by the Junxion box. This allows them the ability to connect to our network with a multitude of Wi-Fi–enabled devices such as PDAs and Windows/Mac based PCs, where before they were limited to Windows devices with PCMCIA slots to take advantage of the Sprint PCS data network.” The other new and slightly more esoteric service is from San Jose-based IPdynamics, where I had a very animated lunch with Mark Schaeffer, director of product marketing and an industry veteran in emerging technologies. We talked in depth about IPdynamics Virtual Community Network (VCN) software suite and how it means to change the ways people connect wirelessly. Schaeffer broke down for me a brief history of networks from private, largely government and corporate networks of the 60s, to the take off of public networks with the Internet and World Wide Web in the 90s, to what he sees is the future with portable networks that offer secure, user-to-user connectivity without the necessity of a central or fixed location. “Each evolution leveled the playing field allowing more players to more easily participate in the networks, due to reduced cost and complexity,” comments Schaeffer. “With the advent of portable networks, the playing field is leveled further, allowing individuals to provide services to each other and collaborate with each other, without the costs and time associated with having to setup a server and a fixed location.” The idea being that as mobility seeps deeper into the way we all work and live, being tethered to a server is an unnecessary hurdle which IPdyanmics believes it can solve. Schaeffer further explained that though the Internet was originally designed to for peer-to-peer access, public networks developed into a user-to-server environment for economic and organizational reasons. Schaeffer favors the portable network model, citing that anything you do on public networks is possible on portable ones as well as with the differences coming down to lower end-user costs with more flexibility and security, as well as quicker time to market for services and application creators. Schaeffer also stressed that the technology to make portable networks possible is already in existence, even poised for development and adoption. And with the advent of portable networks, new usage models as well as new applications and security products will also come into play. The two things that both of these companies have in common, and that convinced me in such a short time of their immediate merit, is an understanding of mobility as not just a niche market, but an exciting wave that will affect all of our futures. And a commitment to using that excitement to bring to market innovative products that expand and deepen the mobile experience.