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RealTime IT News

Microsoft Touts Native XP Support for Wi-Fi

Microsoft Corp. Monday boasted that its new Windows XP operating system leads the industry as the first OS to provide native support for Wi-Fi networks and the IEEE 802.1x wireless security standard. But the Redmond, Wash.-based software titan was not alone in singing its praises; the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA), a non-profit which certifies interoperability of Wi-Fi LAN products, also lauded Microsoft's efforts.

"WECA commends Microsoft for including native support for Wi-Fi wireless LANs in Windows XP," said David Cohen, chairman of WECA. "Windows XP support of IEEE 802.1x also complements what many regard as the future direction of Wi-Fi wireless LAN security. This combination makes wireless networks more secure and easier to use -- so everyone benefits. People just want to show up and be connected. With native Wi-Fi support in Windows XP they can stay connected at their office, home, the airport or their hotel with little or no reconfiguration. This will undoubtedly contribute to broader consumer acceptance and further market growth of Wi-Fi wireless LANs."

A report commissioned by Microsoft and released by WECA on Oct. 19 showed that many organizations have either deployed or are considering deploying wireless networks. The report found 40 percent of the 180 respondents had already deployed wireless networks and another 31 percent plan to deploy them within 18 months. The report suggested that wireless networking technology will have a penetration of 88 percent within 18 months. But respondents also said security concerns are the key barrier to deploying wireless networks.

Microsoft helped to test the IEEE's 802.1x security standard with help from Wayport Inc., a supplier of Wi-Fi and wired high-speed Internet access in airports and hotels. Based on the test's results, Microsoft included support for 802.1x, as well as support for VPNs and RADIUS, in the new operating system.

With Microsoft's wireless enhancements to Windows XP, at least one Wi-Fi equipment maker is already beginning to jump on the XP bandwagon. Agere Systems Monday said its ORiNOCO Access Point 2000 (AP-2000) utilizes Windows XP and 802.1x to provide high-security wireless networking through user-based authentication and automatic key-distribution to the wireless system. The AP-2000's authentication is certificate-based via RADIUS server and provides mutual authentication. Its re-keying mechanism can refresh the key at set intervals. Meanwhile, the AP-2000's implementation of the 802.1x protocol distributes the wired equivalency protocol (WEP) keys in both directions -- one up and one down key.

"Windows XP is a significant step forward for mobile wireless computing," said Cees Links, vice president of Wireless Computing and Networking at Agere Systems. "By incorporating Zero Config and 802.1x into our ORiNOCO AP-2000 wireless networking systems, we are providing IT managers and end users with the ease of use and the enhanced security that they demand."

Windows XP is set to launch Thursday in New York City, and will hold events in 60 cities across the United States. Agere will supply the wireless equipment for all 60 launch events.