Symbol mini wireless LAN card upstages Compaq

Symbol's wireless LAN card fits into a compact flash socket, giving Compaq's competitors the edge
Written by Guy Kewney, Contributor

Symbol's wireless LAN card fits into a compact flash socket, giving Compaq's competitors the edge

Compaq's portable iPaq pocket PC may have had its thunder stolen -- by a new wireless card from Symbol, which uses a compact flash socket.

Symbol is also announcing, on Tuesday, a cellphone which uses LAN wireless frequencies, and new security products for LAN use.

Up till now, the iPAQ has been the only pocket PC to be able to connect over fast wireless LANs, using the 802.11 standard, because it has an expansion "jacket" which takes a PCMCIA card.

But several computers and pocket computers these days include compact flash memory card readers -- usually, for expansion, or for being able to read pictures off digital cameras.

Symbol -- a pioneer of hand-held devices -- was due to announce its 802.11b card in compact flash format on Tuesday at Networld+Interop exhibition here in Las Vegas. To demonstrate it, executives were touting a Hewlett-Packard Journada pocket PC.

The Journada, like many other such devices, includes the compact flash socket as standard, so there is no need for the jacket -- making this about half the size and weight of the Compaq device, to say nothing of the difference in battery drain.

For network experts, Symbol may have gained more notice with its simultaneous announcement of support for Kerberos security in its wireless LAN products (which are sold under licence by Intel).

"Normally, wireless LAN systems use Radius for authentication; but it can take a long time -- up to two seconds or more -- if you move from one access point to another," said marketing manager Yangmin Shen. "This may be acceptable for portable applications like notebook PC usage, where you tend to close the system down and restart it if you move it," he added, "but we anticipate more mobile applications in 802.11b networking."

One example of a mobile application, Shen said, would be automated fork-lift operations in warehousing.

Another example of a mobile application is the company's third new product -- an Internet phone which uses 802.11b instead of cellular frequencies. "It may be that this is more interesting to US companies than European ones," conceded Shen, "but we are expecting to sell a lot this year, because of the interest shown by corporate buyers."

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