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Let this be a warning to all would-be and actual inflators of the Wi-Fi Bubble: nearly three-quarters of British consumers don't know what a Wi-Fi hot-spot is, according to a poll conducted by well-known pollster Mori.

The company spoke to 985 home computer users on behalf of UK PC vendor Packard Bell. They were asked what they thought the term 'Wi-Fi hot-spot' means and were provided with a list of possibilities as a prompt.

Some 43 per cent of them came right out and admitted they didn't know. A large percentage ignored the question - one of a number relating to new technologies - suggesting they didn't know either but preferred not to admit their ignorance.

Of the rest, five per cent thought it was a kind of nightclub and two per cent thought it was a new hi-fi. Some selected the 'microwave ready-meal' option, others the 'posh hot tub' box. A few even said they understood the term to mean trouble with the wife.

Some 20 respondents said a 'Wi-Fi hot-spot' is something that has been left out in the sun too long and gone a bit rank.

Just under a third of consumers surveyed - 29 per cent - correctly said it was "an area covered by a wireless access point, typically set up for the Internet so that people can connect to the Web without cables".

The survey's results will prove disappointing for companies looking to tout public wireless Net access zones. The respondents are PC users, so might be expected to have a slightly better handle on technology than most people, and as other surveys have shown, they're well used to accessing and utilising e-mail and the Internet.

And since a high proportion of them are also mobile phone users - 98 per cent of the 15-24 year olds - they have some understanding of mobile, wireless communications.

The problem, then, appears to be the terminology. Folk simply don't know what 'Wi-Fi' means and aren't too sure about 'hot-spot', either. It's a good job, we reckon, Mori didn't ask about WLANs or 802.11 - the punters would have been even more bamboozled.

The moral of the tale is clear: a 'spade' is a 'spade', not a 'S-EX (Soil EXtraction) aid'. Budding Wi-Fi entrepreneurs take note. ®

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