Apple may jump on hot spot bandwagon

Apple was a pioneer of mainstream wireless LAN use, and now it appears to be looking to return to the Wi-Fi limelight

Apple is looking to jump on the UK's Wi-Fi bandwagon as a way of raising the profile of its wireless networking gear, according to information posted on the company's Web site.

In a job advertisement on Apple's site, the company said it is planning to open "Wi-Fi hot spots in high-profile places, which Apple will support." The effort, for which Apple is hiring a "hot-spot evangelist", is designed to raise awareness of Apple's AirPort Wi-Fi access points and other equipment, much of which can be used with computers other than Apple's own Macintosh.

A number of companies are currently competing to roll out hot spots and wireless Internet services across Britain. Hot spots allow Wi-Fi-equipped devices to access the Internet at broadband speeds, and are usually installed in public places such as airports, train stations, coffee shops and hotels.

With mobile computing currently one of the few growth areas in the IT industry, hardware makers such as Intel and Toshiba have been competing for the public's attention with huge advertising campaigns and sponsored hot spot networks. For example, Toshiba and systems integrator Wireless Workplace are planning to install wireless LAN access in football venues around the country, the companies announced recently.

With its original AirPort products in the 1990s, Apple was one of the first to bring Wi-Fi -- known technically as IEEE 802.11b -- into the mainstream. The company recently upgraded the line to the faster 802.11g standard with AirPort Extreme.

Apple said it is not undertaking any initiatives with regard to AirPort at the moment.