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Wi-Fi Direct still finding its stride

By Stephen Lawson
January 19, 2011 09:12 PM ET

IDG News Service - Wi-Fi Direct is still scarce in announced or shipping products, but it would be wrong to reach a gloomy conclusion about the new peer-to-peer technology from the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The alliance, which puts the stamp of approval on all Wi-Fi gear, started certifying products with Wi-Fi Direct in late October. About 20 products have been approved, but there were few new Wi-Fi Direct gadgets at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show, which is often watched for new trends. However, that's no reason to count out the new technology, according to vendors and industry observers.

Wi-Fi Direct is a specification for devices to communicate via Wi-Fi without an access point. The capability could have a range of uses, including linking peripherals to PCs, doing quick file transfers anywhere, and connecting home entertainment gear. Wi-Fi Direct can deliver typical Wi-Fi speeds, and peer-to-peer networks can be set up with the technology as long as one of the devices involved is equipped with it.

The new technology is the first realistic option for peer-to-peer networks in the Wi-Fi family of standards. The previous mechanism, called "ad hoc mode," was too complex for most users to set up and worked poorly even when they could.

Vendor-specific tools have filled the void to some degree. For example, Intel introduced Intel My WiFi at CES in 2009, and it is now built into almost all consumer laptops with Intel Wi-Fi chipsets, according to Kerry Forrell, an Intel product manager. Among other things, Intel My WiFi lets laptops send print jobs to printers and synchronize data with mobile phones or portable audio players, he said. Another Intel technology, called Wireless Display, or WiDi, uses Intel My WiFi to send video and audio from Wi-Fi devices to TVs and other displays. Microsoft has gotten into the game with a feature called SoftAP, which allows a Windows PC to turn itself into a virtual access point, again bypassing the need for a dedicated network.

Wi-Fi Direct opens up these capabilities to more devices, beyond the Windows and Intel worlds, said Roel Peeters, vice president of marketing and business development at Ozmo Devices, which makes wireless chipsets. Many types of products, such as TVs and set-top boxes, don't use either Intel or Microsoft. In addition, a standard specification should help all players benefit from market momentum and growing product volume, he said.

The new standard has attracted support from most of the major Wi-Fi silicon providers. Intel, Atheros, Broadcom and Marvell all have had components certified for Wi-Fi Direct. Intel itself plans eventually to include Wi-Fi Direct in all its wireless products, offering it alongside My WiFi and WiDi where those are provided, Forrell said.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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