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New wireless outfit may signpost MS counter-strike

How many wireless standards bodies does it take to change a lightbulb, anyway?

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Yet another wireless alliance is due to debut on Tuesday, according to US reports. But with this one Microsoft may be finally giving us an indication of which way (or ways) it intends to jump. Spinmeisters last week were suggesting that Bluetooth was in big trouble because Microsoft wasn't going to join (Click for counterspin). The latest organisation (named the Wireless Ready and Trade Alliance by someone with cloth ears, apparently) is tipped to include WirelessKnowledge, Microsoft's jv company with Qualcomm, as a member. The lead members of the WRTA include AT&T Wireless, Bell Atlantic Mobile and Sierra Wireless, plus HP, Sharp, Casio and Compaq on the hardware side. That little lot makes it pretty clear it's going to be US-centric, with the phone and wireless boys calling the shots on wireless standards and the hardware vendors hoping to benefit from US sales. But there are also clear overlaps and possible clashes with both Bluetooth, the international effort that's starting to look rather European, and HomeRF, the US one that's a sort of Americanised DECT 2. WRTA intends to concentrate on interoperability issues concerning wireless hardware, software and services, and that has obvious attractions to WirelessKnowledge. Despite its control-freak parents this outfit claims to be independently run, and is aiming to offer multi-platform wireless systems that give wireless clients access to BackOffice-type applications. So maybe not that independent after all. (Earlier story) The new group's formation suggests that various overlapping camps are starting to form around short range cable replacement and home networking systems and wireless telephony-related systems. HomeRF can be seen as a sort of competitor to Bluetooth, while WRTA may well clash with WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) Forum. Microsoft is a member of HomeRF, and of WRTA at least by proxy. The Enemy, including Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola and Symbian, are signed up for WAP, and for Bluetooth. But the sheer complexity of the interlocking memberships makes it clear that rival camps have yet to form up properly. Qualcomm is in Bluetooth and WAP as well, and Compaq is in Bluetooth, WRTA, HomeRF and the GSA (Global Mobile Suppliers Association, a GSM trade body). AMD, one of whose VPs insisted to us earlier this year that wireless could never get cheaper than wired (AMD puts money on home networking), is nevertheless in Bluetooth and HomeRF. This one will get worse before it gets better. ®

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