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Innovation and Growth in the Enterprise Wi-Fi Market
The enterprise Wi-Fi market, meanwhile, is also growing, up about seven
percent from last year, according to Synergy. Cisco continues to
dominate, with over 60 percent of enterprise sales, but there is
evidence of increasing competition from both established players like
Symbol and 3Com as well as new providers like Airespace and Aruba.
Cisco's recently announced Wi-Fi switching module should bolster market
momentum in two ways. First, it will enable loyal Cisco shops to move
from tactical to strategic deployments in a relatively painless fashion.
And second, it legitimizes the architecture of many of Cisco's
competitors, which continue to deliver new innovations at very appealing
Still, some cynics wonder whether smaller vendors can compete with a
Cisco that is determined to dominate enterprise Wi-Fi sales. To do so,
they need to do three things. First, they have to continue to innovate
with new technologies, allowing them to capitalize on the perception
that they are a best-of-breed alternative. Second, they need to execute
on their business plans, developing a viable global distribution and
support infrastructure, largely through partnerships. And last, they
need to be able to point to success stories, high-profile customers that
not only have recognized significant business value through WLAN
implementation, but are willing to talk about it publicly.
As we learned from a recent project where we sought out examples of best
practices in the enterprise Wi-Fi market, many organizations don't want
to talk about their internal Wi-Fi projects. Some maintain their silence
because they view their wireless deployment as a competitive
differentiator, their own "secret sauce." Others are shy because the
internal politics surrounding the choice of vendor is intense,
especially in shops that have Cisco wired infrastructure and are
considering alternative vendors for wireless. In the end, there's a
certain "what's in it for us?" mentality at work here.
The one major exception appears to be universities, which don't fit the
typical enterprise mold in several ways. First, wireless is a compelling
technology in a campus environment where thousands of mobile information
professionals -- students -- do their thing. Second, many universities
recognize that their effectiveness in attracting the best and brightest
faculty and students is enhanced by market perceptions that they offer
state-of-the-art technology. Third, misguided technocrats cannot easily
squelch technology innovation within universities. In fact, individual
academic subunits are often given an implicit license to operate outside
the constraints of central policy, often competing with the central IT
organization for leadership. Finally, given their historic role in both
creating and implementing the basic technologies upon which modern data
networks are based, there's more of a willingness to take a chance on a
new vendor with a better idea.
-- Dave Molta, [email protected]
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