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We haven't paid much attention to HomeRF(HRF) products lately due to their 1.6Mbps speed vs. 802.11b/WiFi products' 11Mbps rate.  But we saw some interesting HRF-based new products at the show and got some info about HRF that made us think that the wireless standards battle isn't over yet!

SimpleDevices was a little hard to track down since they didn't have their own booth, but finding them was worth it!  Their product line is built around HomeRF and consists of: SimpleFi ($200 list), which lets you play MP3 files over your normal FM stereo boxes; SimpleClock ($300 list), which also plays MP3s, but can sync to your PIM and also display small graphics such as weather report maps; and SimplePad (no price available), which can connect your PalmV into your wireless LAN and even play MP3's and Internet Radio!  Look for their products in late Q2 2001.

SimpleDevices' SimpleFi

SimpleDevices' SimpleClock

SimpleDevices' SimplePad

Siemens Gigaset 4600 SIMpad

We also finally got our hands on a real, live web pad, the Siemens Gigaset 4600 SIMpad. Although it was demonstrated using a HomeRF wireless connection, the radio installs into a PCMCIA slot and could be changed to use another standard.  Siemens believes, however, that HomeRF will be a winning technology, especially in light of the developments coming in the second half of 2001.

Which brings us to the big story in HomeRF... version 2.0.

RF revs up!

Coming this Summer to a store near you will be HomeRF 2.0 products.  Aimed squarely at the competing WiFi standard, the new spec closes the gap on many of HomeRF's present weaknesses and pushes ahead with a few advantages of its own.  Here's a summary of what's coming

  • 10 Mb/ s peak data rate with fallback modes of 5 Mb/ s,1.6 Mb/ s and 0.8 Mb/ s

  • Backwards-compatibility with installed base of HomeRF 1.2 devices operating at 1.6 Mb/ s and 0.8 Mb/ s

  • Simultaneous host/ client and peer/ peer connectionless topology

  • Up to 8 simultaneous prioritized streaming media sessions for audio, video, one- way or two- way

  • Up to 8 simultaneous toll-quality two-way cordless voice connections (4 handsets initially)

In addition to the above, HomeRF boasts built-in support for simultaneous voice and data (instead of 802.11b's voice support via VoIP), better immunity to microwave oven interference, lower power consumption, and cheaper chip set pricing.  Finally, the 2.0 version spec standardizes roaming procedures so that HomeRF clients will be able to move from Access Point to Access Point in larger networks, just like their 802.11b cousins.

Of course, WiFi has a lot of momentum behind it and product prices are dropping fast, so it remains to be seen whether these improvements can kick HomeRF into the passing lane.  Stay tuned!

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