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Enterprise WLANs

Just prior to our publishing deadline, Cisco Systems surprised a lot of people--including, we hear, many within its wireless networking group--by acquiring Airespace, a leading wireless switch manufacturer whose Wireless Enterprise Platform won our latest Well-Connected Award for most outstanding product of the year. This decision's impact will be felt far and wide. Although some bemoan a shrinking vendor pool, the move increases Cisco's market share and prospects while legitimizing the wireless switch paradigm. And it's good news for Cisco customers, who now have fresh wireless options.

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Have Wi-Fi, Will Fly

The main force driving enterprise WLAN adoption isn't a new and compelling mobile application. Instead, it's the rapidly growing installed base of Wi-Fi client devices. Notebook computers are displacing desktop PCs in many organizations, and most laptops have embedded Wi-Fi. When the client is ubiquitous, demand for infrastructure will follow.

The big reason we have cheap embedded Wi-Fi clients in enterprise notebooks is because Wi-Fi use has exploded in the home. A late 2004 study from the Dell'Oro group reported 73 percent year-to-year growth in the WLAN equipment market, accompanied by rapidly falling prices. Our neighbors have Wi-Fi. Your neighbors have Wi-Fi. Your boss has Wi-Fi, and his boss does, too. Intel's Centrino marketing campaign doesn't hurt, either.

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