Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on September 13, 2009
People who criticize companies like Microsoft and Apple for pursuing their own de facto standards instead of working through formal standards bodies might consider the long, strange history of Wi-Fi. The IEEE has finally ratified the latest longer range, higher speed version of the wireless standard. The move came seven years after the process began and more than two years after an all-but-final draft was approved and companies started deploying 802.11n gear.
In fact, Wi-Fi has succeeded, and has improved steadily, only because hardware and software companies have regularly given up of the pokey IEEE standards-setting process and have forged ahead on their own. There have been occasional issues of incompatibility, but it has been better than the alternative of waiting forever.
Apple and Lucent launched Wi-Fi products back in the 1990s before the IEEE ratified the original 802.11b standard. Even the Wi-Fi Alliance, a trade group more conservative than the hardware makers, has certified new standards long before the IEEE formally adopted them.