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Intel inks deal to let Ultrabooks leech off Wi-Fi net

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Intel has signed a deal with Devicescape to integrate the company's freeloading Wi-Fi network into Ultrabooks as part of Intel's Smart Connect Technology, which lets devices link up even when they're not switched on.

Devicescape's technology lets devices automatically connect to the numerous free Wi-Fi points that we're told are proliferating across modern cities, so a Devicescape-equipped Ultrabook would be able to attach to the Wi-Fi offered by the café you just walked past, synchronising mail and applications, and automatically bypassing the café's logon screen and advertising.

Devicescape does that using a specially-formatted DNS query, which is passed on by all but the most-locked-down Wi-Fi router. That query is addressed to Devicescape's servers, and comes embedded with details of the Wi-Fi point. The server then responds with tailored instructions on the steps necessary to get some free connectivity, and the software works through them to establish an internet connection.

Once the connection is established, the Ultrabook can do its syncing thing, even in standby mode – the user just finds everything updated when they next open the lid.

Devicescape already has more than 50 customers using its system, including Intel, but for it to be embedded into Chipzilla's flagship range is a big deal, and as the hotspot data is largely crowd-sourced a larger number of users should lead to a better experience for all, except those offering the free Wi-Fi of course.

The company argues that free Wi-Fi is a commodity offering these days, and they just make it easier to use while detracting nothing from the value-add of having a "Free Wi-Fi" sign on the wall. Devicescape is also dismissive of initiatives such as Hotspot 2.0, an Intel-backed initiative allowing single logon to multiple Wi-Fi networks. Hotspot 2.0 is all about billable networks and cellular operators ensuring their customers get access, while Devicescape is more interested in enabling users to take advantage of existing, free, connectivity.

If Intel was really serious about Devicescape, and its technology, then it would likely just buy the company, but this more cautious approach is probably wise.

Devicescape will continue to run the servers for all those Ultrabooks, though the deal does allow cooperation with Intel if the service takes off. If it proves really popular we'd not be surprised to see Intel more directly involved, but the deal specifically excludes Intel's handset aspirations, so its success is shackled to the success of Ultrabooks, which are still considered overpriced by many. And this is something better connectivity won't solve, even if it does come for free. ®

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