Microsoft Joins WiMedia

Last week, ultrawideband-backer the WiMedia Alliance announced that no less than Microsoft had joined the group as a top-level “promoter member.”

The Alliance now has 14 members at that level: Alereon, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Kodak, Microsoft, Nokia, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Staccato Communications, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, and Wisair.

Kosar Jaff, product unit manager in Microsoft’s Windows Division, says that joining the WiMedia Alliance is a way for Microsoft to become directly involved with the development of the Alliance’s UWB technology. “As a board member of WiMedia, Microsoft has the opportunity to work closely with this technology and support cool scenarios on future Windows platforms,” Jaff says.

According to Jaff, Microsoft anticipates a wide range of potential applications for ultrawideband. “Some of the UWB scenarios of interest include ad-hoc networking, wireless hard disk drives, and rapid synchronization with rich media drives such as digital cameras and portable media players,” he says.

For business users, he notes, UWB can serve as a second high-speed networking technology. “Imagine going to a customer meeting and being able to share files, project your PowerPoint presentation, etc. by using UWB, while still connected to your corporate infrastructure LAN through Wi-Fi,” Jaff says.

No industry-wide UWB standard has yet emerged, however, and Jaff is quick to note that this announcement doesn’t necessarily indicate Microsoft’s exclusive support for WiMedia’s MultiBand OFDM over the competing DS-UWB standard.

“Microsoft is always evaluating industry standards,” he says. “At this juncture, the progress on WiMedia’s standards, as well as the support from our customers, is leading us to engage deeply with WiMedia for development of UWB on Windows PCs.”

Still, WiMedia board member Dr. Roberto Aiello says Microsoft’s participation in the WiMedia Alliance is a significant boost for the organization. “Microsoft plays a leading role in standardization for many market segments, and the fact that Microsoft is committed to develop software and support the WiMedia radio platform on their software platforms makes it very relevant for us,” he says. “We think that it will certainly facilitate adoption and reduce confusion for the market.”

Aiello does believe that Microsoft’s involvement is likely to help MultiBand OFDM take hold as a global UWB standard. “We are remaining in the IEEE effort in the sense that we think that’s also going to help reduce market confusion,” he says. “And certainly, I hope that the fact that Microsoft joined WiMedia, and by definition it also supports the WiMedia efforts at the IEEE, will help our IEEE efforts as well.”

Aiello also notes that the recent merger between the WiMedia Alliance and the MultiBand OFDM Alliance Special Interest Group (MBOA-SIG) has greatly empowered the organization. “We now have a one-stop shop for specification, compliance and interoperability—and, of course, we have also expanded the number of companies working to support the platform,” he says.

The Alliance plans to release the first version of the MBOA physical (PHY) layer specification in the second quarter of 2005. That release will then be followed by further specifications and application profiles. “We’re expecting thoroughly interoperable products at the WiMedia level before the end of the year,” Aiello says.

Jeff Goldman
Jeff Goldman has been a technology journalist for more than 20 years and a contributor to TechnologyAdvice websites since 1999. He's covered security, networking, storage, mobile technologies and more during his time with TechnologyAdvice.

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