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Intel Wireless Display (WiDi): Another Cable Killer Hits Its Stride

Intel Wireless Display (WiDi): Another Cable Killer Hits Its Stride
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Sometimes first impressions can make or break a relationship. Imagine: Salesman Jim walks into a client meeting, ready to make the PowerPoint pitch of his year. In years past, he might have strolled in carrying a Coach or Gucci briefcase. Now, the supple leather and brass fittings have been replaced by brushed aluminum and the razor-thin profile of the highest-end Ultrabook. Jim doesn’t need a power cable; he has at least five hours of battery runtime. What he does need is a way to connect to his client’s meeting room projector. Of course, he could pack in an HDMI cable or, even worse, a DVI or VGA cable. But that means clutter and a “prior-gen” look that could torpedo Jim’s goal. A far better course would be to connect with the projector wirelessly, and that means using Intel Wireless Display, or WiDi.

In the fall of 2009, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced that it was “nearing completion of a new specification to enable Wi-Fi devices to connect to one another without joining a traditional home, office, or hotspot network.” Those acquainted with Wi-Fi might recognize that this sounds a lot like ad-hoc mode, the little-used, point-to-point protocol within Wi-Fi most people overlook due to the popularity of infrastructure mode, which requires client connection to a central access point. However, ad-hoc never gained much traction owing to a few key shortcomings that the new specification, dubbed Wi-Fi Direct, remedied.

Originally called Wi-Fi P2P, Wi-Fi Direct integrates security into its basic operation. Whereas an encrypted connection was optional with ad-hoc Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct integrates WPA2, just like most current-gen access points. More importantly, Wi-Fi Direct makes establishing secure point-to-point connections between devices much more simple and automated than was possible under conventional ad-hoc Wi-Fi. Because each Wi-Fi Direct device embeds firmware able to make the device function as a “soft access point,” each device also includes a version of Wi-Fi Protected Setup, allowing nodes to securely associate with only a button push or a PIN. Consider the potential complexities of wirelessly connecting a notebook to a wireless-enabled kitchen appliance or a smartphone to a wireless printer without some dedicated app to glue them together. Wi-Fi Direct addresses these complexities behind the scenes, leaving users with a quick, easy connection process. Note that not all devices in a Wi-Fi Direct network need to be Wi-Fi Direct-compliant.

William Van Winkle has been a full-time tech writer and author since 1998. He specializes in a wide range of coverage areas, including unified communications, virtualization, Cloud Computing, storage solutions and more. William lives in Hillsboro, Oregon with his wife and 2.4 kids, and—when not scrambling to meet article deadlines—he enjoys reading, travel, and writing fiction.

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