MS talks to self about not talking about home 802.11b range
Doesn't actually announce something we all knew very little about already
Microsoft, as we've all been aware for some time, plans to enter the home wireless arena at the tail end of this year, and the company today announced that it, er, plans to enter the home wireless arena at the tail end of this year. And...? Er no, that's it folks, they're refusing to give details.
But they're not refusing to publish content-light softball interviews with themselves on Microsoft Presspass, so at some personal psychological risk The Register has gone in there on your behalf to decrypt the spin. Microsoft hardware division general manager Randy Ringer does not have a great deal to say, but there is just a little information in there.
Today, for the record, Microsoft "announced plans to launch a line of products that will allow users to access high-speed connections and other conveniences on any PC almost anywhere in their home - or even their favorite coffee shop." So we are talking a broadband wireless gateway system, and 802.11b PC Cards, so far so obvious. Randy tells us users "want more mobility - the ability to move about their house or set up a computer anywhere, to connect to their information from wherever they are." Again obvious, although the moving about bit suggests it's either a weight-loss programme, or Mira and Freestyle will be involved.
Microsoft's other major research finding is that home users find networking very difficult, so Microsoft will make it easier. Ringer doesn't say how, but the company is known to be well advanced in the beta of its home wireless product, so all should become apparent in the fullness of time.
Then - brace - yourself - it starts to get a little interesting. Consumers want to "want to play head-to-head games, talk to and see friends across the country over the Internet, and access and play their music from any PC in the house. That's where the Microsoft wireless networking products come in. They will allow users to access the Internet and their data from all areas of their house - regardless of which computer it's housed on - while adding expanded mobility and the option of putting a PC wherever they want it."
So, we'll be pushing internet telephony, maybe tying in our online games services, and facilitating home networked jukebox systems. Which implies some interesting developments in player software and licence management. These should be worth looking forward to, as will the security side.
Security comes up in response to a question from Presspass' unnamed inquisitor, who we suspect will have had some hand in the preparation of the answer (this sort of thing can make you blind, you know). The exchange goes:
"PressPass: Security seems to be a big concern when it comes to wireless networking. How are you going to ensure this is a secure solution?
"Ringer: Again, we're not going to discuss product details until later this year. But I can tell you that Microsoft is monitoring the security concerns around wireless networking, particularly with regard to WiFi, and we will address these concerns in our products. It's important to keep in mind that security needs to be balanced alongside other important considerations, such as speed and ease of use. Also, security always involves a tradeoff between safety and performance."
Now, doesn't that sound weirdly like managing expectations downwards? security "needs to be balanced alongside... speed and ease of use." So, although wireless as it's used in great swathes of the world is inherently insecure, Microsoft is not going to be setting itself up for a fall by promising to bulletproof its home users. It will "deliver a line of wireless networking products that are more secure than others on the market and that also perform well for our customers in the home, home office and small office." Which is no more than promising its home systems will be more secure than some current products. Hoorah. ®
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