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Cisco Targets Enterprise Wireless LAN Market

Under the Compatible Extensions program, Cisco will provide free licenses to select vendors, identifying their offerings as compatible with its Aironet wireless products.

In an effort to boost the 802.11x wireless LAN market, Cisco Systems on Monday unveiled a program aimed at moving some of the roadblocks hindering enterprise Wireless Fidelity adoption.

Under the Cisco Compatible Extensions program, the vendor provides free licenses to a select group of vendors, identifying their adapters and mobile devices as interoperable with Cisco's Aironet wireless LAN product line.

"We think the enterprise market is poised for rapid growth," says Bill Rossi, VP and general manager of Cisco's wireless networking business unit. "Our vision for a wireless Internet is truly at hand."

Consumers have bought in to Wi-Fi quickly, but adoption by businesses has lagged, primarily because of voids in security, management, and quality of service. The primary standards bodies addressing these concerns are the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Wi-Fi Alliance, but neither focuses solely on the enterprise nor moves quickly enough to address the problems.

Cisco hopes to change that by teaming with key wireless LAN vendors Agere Systems, Atheros, Atmel, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Marvell, and Texas Instruments. The vendors make up 90% of wireless LAN designs for components and products such as modules in notebooks and desktops, as well as PDAs, cellular phones, and PC Cards.

The goal is to have mobile devices, such as HP notebooks and IBM ThinkPads, be compatible with Cisco's wireless LAN products, making it easier for customers to piece together secure, easily managed wireless LAN capabilities from the user device through the corporate network.

In the first release, available now, all products are compatible with IEEE and Wi-Fi specs, as well as Cisco's security schemes. The vendors hope to appeal to existing customers already using Cisco's Leap security scheme. By extending that scheme to mobile devices, IT executives may be more apt to seriously consider Wi-Fi. "It's really about picking up that installed base," Atheros CEO Rich Redelfs says.

Cisco expects to introduce new versions of the Cisco Compatible Extensions regularly, with the next version set for delivery within two months. That version will provide new capabilities to improve roaming performance and wireless LAN management.

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