Land of the LAN
In the early days, a certain "build it and they will come" mentality pervaded most progressive institutions. Then, when local area networking caught on, universities were a natural environment to take on all the reliability, scalability and security challenges. The computer science Ph.Ds had to find a way to work with the campus IT guys--an interesting bunch of refugees whose backgrounds ranged from engineering to music--to merge theory and practice.
Along the way, lots of companies were born, from Cisco to Yahoo, started by smart, young university entrepreneurs bent on making it big. As the bubble economy bulged, all it took was a good idea and some "adult supervision" and the venture capitalists would be there with money.
Today, entrepreneurs must figure out a way to get noticed in a market of billion-dollar incumbents. The enterprise wireless LAN market, for instance, is dominated by the likes of Cisco, 3Com and Symbol.
Much of the real innovation, however, has close ties to university research labs, and even when the R&D is done in-house at large corporations, it's often spearheaded by researchers not long removed from academia. In a recent presentation, a senior manager at wireless chip heavyweight Broadcom joked that the company had so many Ph.Ds, it could transform itself into a university if the chip market got too soft.