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« Dell Joins Draft N Delusion | Main | Acer Joins Draft N Devolution »

July 20, 2006

Mainstream Coverage of Draft N Status, and a Statement on Weasels

By Glenn Fleishman

The Global and Mail in Toronto writes about consumer confusion with Draft N: I’m quoted as a skeptic, which I am, of the sense in releasing devices that conform to a non-existent stamp and for which there is no third-party rigorous certification process for interoperability. The danger to consumers is noted in this paragraph from the story:

“A full-page Future Shop ad in newspapers recently declared: “Wireless-N. It’s a revolution in Networking.” The ad offered a special price on a Linksys wireless N router and laptop adapter, but made no mention of the format being non-standard. Future Shop and Linksys representatives did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.”

Of course, Linksys is using a brand name, Wireless-N, which has a specific set of promises associated with it. I’m a little surprised to see them using Wireless-N, because their final product will also be called Wireless-N. And I would think that they would want to make the proviso in the ad—especially in a country like Canada that has more controls on advertising—that the Wireless-N sold today won’t necessarily be fully upgradable to the Wireless-N sold in a few months.

I’ve been getting pushback from several companies about my complaint, noted in this article, that chipmakers and manufacturers won’t guarantee a hardware upgrade for the final version of 802.11n, if such an upgrade is needed. These firms believe I’m besmirching their good name—that I’m calling them, in effect, either liars or weasels.

Let me be clear that I’m not. Any company I speak to about this will tell me bluntly and on the record that they aren’t guaranteeing hardware upgrades. They all truly expect to work this out in firmware or possibly drivers plus firmware. They’re in part betting on this because it will be a clean transition to Final N if that’s the case.

Rather, I’m stating that these companies are committing brand suicide by tying themselves to products that might be dead ends. Sure, they’ll still work with any compatible equipment at slower speeds and with like equipment at the fastest speeds. But consumers aren’t going to read an ad such as Future Shop’s cited in this article or any ad by any of their competitors or the actual packaging and make the fine distinction that the companies are willing to state in public for quotation.

That’s not misleading. It’s not even weasely. However, it does provide the opportunity for potentially millions of consumers to lose trust in the promise of Wi-Fi (even though that brand isn’t on the boxes!) and in the individual firms’ reliability if the worst case happens and hardware upgrades are required for full interoperability.

Posted by Glennf at July 20, 2006 12:52 PM

Categories: Draft N

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