Feeds

Windows Phone 8 has a secret feature which may activate at any time

Aims to let users surf free WiFi 'spots all unknowing

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Updated Microsoft has embedded software from Devicescape into Windows Phone 8, allowing smartmobes to automatically leech off 11 million free Wi-Fi hotspots.

Devicescape's technology is already mandated by Intel in its Ultrabook blueprints, but this Windows Phone tie-up is potentially a much bigger deal as phones already outnumber laptops in terms of Wi-Fi usage. Windows Phone 8 devices will be able to identify nearby hotspots and query a remote server to discover the best way to automatically log on, or record how someone connects manually for the benefit of other users.

The software, which Microsoft is branding Data Sense and operators are wrapping with their own interface, is only interested in free hotspots such as those provided by cafes, railways stations, airports and public bodies. Such hotspots typically require the user to fill in a form and provide some personal details, and it's these steps that Devicescape automates*.

A device with the software installed crafts a special DNS request containing the identity of the hotspot and sends it off a central server; DNS requests are typically forwarded by free Wi-Fi networks without requiring the user to be logged on, so the Devicescape server can respond with instructions specific to that hotspot. The device can then login itself and start downloading, say, Facebook updates without ever leaving the user's pocket.

If the hotspot isn't know then the user will have to go through the manual process, which is recorded by Devicescape and uploaded to the server, but the company is adamant that it will only start providing automatic connections when a good number of people have gone through the process manually, and once the hotspot has proved itself reliable, and fast, enough to be worth using.

Devicescape reckons ten per cent of all hotspots are open for all and sundry, but some of those are people's home Wi-Fi, and others not fast enough, and some never accumulate the requisite number of manual logins, leaving about one in a hundred available to Devicescape users.

That one per cent still adds up to 11 million hotspots, but Devicescape has aspirations to do more than just manage Wi-Fi connections: it wants to make software that works out the best way to connect based on user preferences rather than the simple hierarchy of Wi-Fi then 4G, 3G and finally 2G.

4G networks can already outperform Wi-Fi in some circumstances, so always selecting a wireless network may not be the best decision. Wi-fi will be potentially cheaper - but not at the end of the month if one has not exhausted the phone's mobile data allowance. The decision on which network to use is going to become more complicated, and Devicescape plans on making the software to manage that process.

But that’s for the future: right now it's enough to get devices out there. Ultrabooks and Windows Phone 8 may not be the dominant platforms, but they should proliferate enough to prove if Devicescape works and is useful, provoking the competition to come knocking. ®

Updated to add

* We were misled by Devicescape in the formation of this article: since our briefing with the company, the software biz has been in touch to clarify a few things.

It seemed at first that Microsoft had embraced this level of Wi-Fi login automation, but in fact Redmond isn't going that far just yet. Devicescape is just providing a list of suitable hotspots for the moment although it hopes that's a gateway to the rest of the Wi-FI functionality it wants to offer. Intel Ultrabooks will have the full Devicescape package.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
Not appy with your Chromebook? Well now it can run Android apps
Google offers beta of tricky OS-inside-OS tech
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.