Selling Wireless "Standards": An 802.11 Dilemma
Note: Prepared for Wireless Conference Keynote
As the great orator of popular television use to say, "I pity the fool." Mr. T did have a way with words. I too pity the salesperson out there trying to sell standards that seem to change with the seasons or the next high tech tradeshow.
Lets look at the wireless market and the changes happening there. Many wireless companies see the future growth of their business dependent on the emergence of applications and features (i.e., ring tones, graphics, internet access, etc.). There's only one thing standing in their way, access. How do consumer access these applications and features quickly and reliably through either their PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) or mobile phone?
In order to create a seamless wireless environment, the industry has elected (as most tech industries do) to establish standards. The wireless standard I'm referring to is 802.11. But no sooner than someone establishes a standard, others go beyond the written agreement and create new standards. Next thing you know you have 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g (Why they skipped c,d,e,f eludes me). How are they different? Well, I'm glad you asked. According to ZDNET the differences are as follows:
802.11a tops out at 54Mbps and works with eight non-overlapping channels. Its radio doesn't have the interference problem because it operates in the 5GHz range. But there's also a disadvantage to using 5GHz radios. While 5GHz offers more non-overlapping channels than 11b, 5GHz doesn't transmit as far or as effectively through walls as 2.4GHz.
802.11b is a technology that tops out at 11Mpbs of throughput and supports three non-overlapping channels of communication. Its radio operates in the 2.4GHz frequency range, where it could conflict with other wireless appliances like cordless phones and microwave ovens.
The primary distinguishing characteristic of 802.11g is that it delivers the 54Mbps performance of 802.11a using the 2.4GHz radio of 802.11b. Theoretically, since the radio could be the same, this means that 11g offers a smooth transition path from 11Mbps to 54Mpbs performance, provided that your hardware manufacturer has figured out how to switch between the two speeds (or auto-detect which one to use) using software. More than likely, products with this sort of forward and backward compatibility will start out as 11g products that were designed to be backward compatible with 11b.
As you read the three descriptions above, as a buyer, are you left more enlightened about your choice or are you more 'insecure' about making a commitment to one or the other standard?
As a seller, are you left feeling more confident about what your selling; especially if you product is at the 802.11a level?
Many salesman are out there trying to assuage buyer's concerns by letting them know that in the future you may be able to upgrade legacy 11b products to 11g (click on links to review my articles on selling Upgrades and Legacy). But it's tough to sell futures on what we think the upgrades or standards will be.
In my articles I always try to end on either a positive note or a note of encouragement. Unfortunately, in this particular case I find myself struggling to provide you the salesperson with a definite answer on how to approach this dilemma.
Creative Destruction Meets Excess
The market has a funny way of making up its own mind on what it chooses as a standard. As the proliferation of wireless access devices continue to flood the market, eventually one of these standards will emerge 'victorious'.
The noted economist Joseph Schumpeter wrote about how markets need "creative destruction" in order to maintain their efficiencies. New technologies bring with them a disruptive force creating new alignments in how business is done. With each new realignment, through destruction of the old, new efficient market arrangements are formed.
Milton Friedman, another renowned economist talked about the benefits of recession because it "squeezes out the excess". Those companies who are not profitable or have the business acumen to stay afloat will sink allowing others to chart a line of sight to our future.
I believe the answer to the wireless standard dilemma can be found between these two pillars of market ideology.
Vendors will say the future of wireless will see a lot of products that can handle 11a and 11g, or 11a and 11b, or 11b and 11g, but not 11a, 11a and 11g, etc... you get the point. Who knows?!
I pity the fool...I mean the salesperson!
© 2003. Victor Antonio G.. All Rights in All Media Reserved. Victor Antonio G. is a sales trainer and motivational coach.
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