March 26, 2001, 12:34 PM —
Unless you happen to live in a cave without Internet access, you already know we're in the first stages of a wireless explosion. In everything from telephones to computers to cash registers, the fixed copper or fiber optic connections that have tied them together are being replaced with radio links that let users connect from just about anywhere. And, of course, Linux is playing a role -- admittedly a small one just now, but that's probably going to change as we move from the world of vapor to reality.
Wireless networking has been used for over a decade in specialized applications such as inventory control. However, until recently the approaches were proprietary and often conflicting. The wireless explosion is built on a series of open standards that have been refined over the past several years to meet the needs of a broader audience. Among those standards is Linux, which can be found everywhere -- from servers feeding information to mobile clients such as laptops to cell phones and PDAs powering their wireless connectivity to the Internet and LANs.
But not very many of them, at least not yet. While wireless companies have expressed a lot of interest in Linux, very few of them have actually released Linux-based products. Or, as Rufus Connell, manager of information technology for Frost and Sullivan, a San Jose, Calif., market research firm that tracks wireless puts it: "It's kind of a niche within a niche."