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February 06, 2004

Wi-Fi is actually under-hyped: Bill Gurley


While some of his peers in Silicon Valley are swearing to stay away from Wi-Fi saying that the sector is over-funded, J. William Gurley, General Partner at Benchmark Capital, claims the technology is actually under-hyped! "I believe that 802.11 is remarkably underhyped, relative to the massive impact this seemingly simple standard will eventually have on the entire wireless communications sector", he says in his latest column for News.com. "There will be numerous doubters and numerous challengers, but they will all succumb to the inescapable power of the first true open-standard radio. Resistance is futile," he adds.

Gurley uses the examples of the x86 computing architecture and the Ethernet networking standard to say that once an open standard gains critical mass, it is extremely hard to derail. "Simply put, 802.11 is to wireless communications what the x86 is to computing and what Ethernet is to networking," Gurley says. "This "open-standard radio" is today supported by more than 115 vendors with more than 900 certified products. The collective R&D of Intel, Broadcom, Cisco Systems and Motorola, as well the entire venture capital community, will move this technology further and further along the price performance curve," he adds.

Gurley warns companies building competitive offerings--and even technically superior offerings--to Wi-Fi to beware. "Cellular equipment providers will tell you that 802.11 cannot support mobility or voice. Ultrawideband, or UWB, chip manufacturers will tell you that 802.11 has "too much" range and not enough channels. 802.16, or WiMax, chip vendors will tell you that 802.11's range is too small. All these vendors are hazardously ignoring the potent impact on innovation of collective R&D investment," he says. "802.11 will not sit still. Before you know it, the performance gap--especially on a value per dollar basis--will quickly narrow....those that promote the weaknesses of the standard are merely writing the feature list for future innovation on top of the standard," he adds.

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