April 21, 2004, 4:16 PM — Wireless chip developer Marvell Semiconductor Inc. has come up with All-into-1, a design to pack five different 802.11g wireless Ethernet functions into a single box about the size of a pack of cards.
The idea is that the same 5-in-1 device could be used for several tasks, and while none of these is new on its own, putting all of them in a single device is, and highlights the company's densely integrated WLAN technology.
It could work as a wireless access point, say, allowing business travellers to establish a WLAN in a hotel room, or as a client device, adding wireless to a device which only has wired Ethernet built in. Alternatively it could be used as a repeater to extend the reach of a Wi-Fi network, or as a point-to-point or multi-point bridge, says James Chen, Marvell's product marketing manager.
Chen says that the pocketable device could be cheap enough to bundle with a wireless-enabled laptop, for example, ensuring that buyers have all they need to hook their new PC up to a home broadband connection.
"Today's products all have different functions, but with All-into-1 we are trying to integrate them all into a single device," he says. "We will have lots of automatic setup options."
All-into-1 is currently a reference design intended to help manufacturers design multi-function devices around Marvell's silicon, with AsusTek Computer Inc. being the first company to publicly say it will adopt All-into-1.
"One product won't necessarily have all five functions, a manufacturer may choose two or three," Chen said. He gave the example of a wireless repeater built into a mains plug, which could double the range of a WLAN.
Wireless networking is a new growth market for Marvell, which started out designing chips for hard disks -- it still does Serial-ATA products, for example -- before branching out into Gigabit Ethernet silicon for the likes of 3Com Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Dell Inc. Its highly integrated chips are now at the heart of 802.11g wireless Ethernet products from a range of companies, including DLink Systems Inc., Cisco's Linksys and Netgear Inc.
"Wireless is a technology that refuses to remain boxed in on one platform such as a laptop," Chen says. "It allows us to come up with new ideas, such as where to put wireless next, and how to use it."