Axis Expands into Wireless

SINGAPORE (04/04/2000) - Axis Communications Inc., better known for its print server products, has just announced the formation of a new Mobile Internet Business unit. The company plans to be a leader in mobile services technology with products and services that will address the needs of a wide range of infrastructure players including end-users, ISPs (Internet service providers), and telecommunications companies.

Although Axis currently has not announced any products from this initiative, Computerworld's editor, Gerald Wee, caught up with Magnus Karnsund, president and chief executive officer, Axis Communications, to discuss the company's new thrust.

Computerworld: Is your wireless strategy still in tandem with your thin server paradigm?

Magnus Karnsund (MK): Yes. It is important to emphasize that even though we are setting up a somewhat different organizational structure for the business unit, we will leverage existing ones, and the concept goes through the whole organization. The products you will see -- the Axis points allowing wireless traffic -- will follow the same design or concept.

What is new here is the wireless dimension. It is a different customer interface compared to what we have today. And it is likely we will need to market and sell this in a different way. But all those challenges we can overcome. We are taking existing data communications competence as a foundation. That comes from the thin server area.

CW: Will your wireless products be software-based?

MK: More than today, software will form a key part where we will use open source code such as Linux.

CW: Could one of your products be a customized Linux box loaded with certain applicatons?

MK: That could very well happen. We will develop these products ourselves, and they will allow for radio traffic and then the Internet. Then you are saying that we will use more standardized processors, and that is a likely scenario.

Linux will be a strong strategy for us. We have a number of years of experience with the program stacks, so we can make a difference there. We have just placed an updated stack on the Web, based on Bluetooth technology.

CW: Is WAP (wireless application protocol) the key to wireless for Axis?

MK: The WAP is a nice solution, but it represents an interim stage, and we will not develop applications based on WAP. It will be developed by others, but these applications could form part of our strategy during a certain period, depending on how long WAP will last.

CW: Is there a particular usage for your products?

MK: Yes, we see different needs. The traffic patterns in today's macro networks are very homogeneous. They provide one service -- voice. Tomorrow, you will have people using laptops, PDAs (personal digital assistants) , and hybrids.

There will also be surfing the Internet, and this will take place on certain physical locations -- hotspots. You will not do it out in the countryside, but more like along (urban areas like Singapore's) Orchard Road.

We will focus more on local area networks with the roaming capability. You can think of an airport where Singapore Airlines wants to provide the same service to their airlines wherever they are, across the globe. When you enter the Silver Kris Lounge, for example, you always have and access the same service -- bookings, special seats, whatever type of service you can think of.

CW: Are wireless LANs prohibitive in terms of cost?

MK: Wired LANs are superior to today's wireless LANs, but if you look at the office, the LANs and all related parts to the LAN is the heart of the company, and if it fails, you lose access to information, and ability to answer customers. Even for very sophisticated users, a lot of offices will be transformed to wireless traffic.

CW: What is your vision for Axis in the future? How do you see it moving?

MK: The mobile Internet is the foundation for the new strategy. We will be there all along the value chain - from the products you see in the solution, to developing the solution, to applications, and running the network. We have decided to be all along that chain in order to show that we are committed. And we need to be at the end of the chain in order to open up the market. In the worst case, we will run ISPs ourselves to start with. Preferably, there will be a lot of interest with operators teaming up with us. With this strategy, we hope to establish a name and great respect in the industry, still very much based on our technological competence, and with the help of strategic partnerships, we should come up as a key player in one of the greatest industries ever.

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