Bluetooth -- last fall didn't end up being as frightful as you had probably imagined, but this fall is bound to be different. Or so the Wi-Fi Alliance says. If you'll recall, Wi-Fi Direct promised to do what Bluetooth had been doing for years, but with far less fuss and on a protocol that's much more widespread. A solid year has come and gone, and we've heard nary a word from any company who plans on implementing it. Thankfully for us all, that changes today. Starting in mere moments, Wi-Fi Direct devices will begin the certification process, and while we couldn't extract exact product details or a release time frame for future wares on a media call regarding the announcement, we did get the impression that at least a few partners were trying to get Wi-Fi Direct wares onto shelves before Christmas.
As for functionality, the claims are fairly impressive. In order to make a direct device-to-device connection over WiFi, just one of the two need to be Wi-Fi Direct certified. In other words, a Wi-Fi Direct printer can recognize and interface with your Latitude D410 laptop from 1999, as all Wi-Fi Direct certified devices have to be able to control the one-to-one relationship. The goal here is pretty simple -- it's to create a protected connection between two devices over WiFi with as little hassle as possible. Think Bluetooth, but using WiFi. We also learned that "most" products certified will also support "one-to-many" connections, enabling a Wi-Fi Direct laptop to be in contact with a printer, connected HDTV and a tablet simultaneously, with no router in-between at any point. We should also point out that while 802.11a/g/n is supported over 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, there's no requirement for Wi-Fi Direct products to support 802.11b, so legacy users may want to pay attention to that quirk.
There's also no new hardware requirements here, so in theory, any existing WiFi chipset could be upgraded via firmware to handle Wi-Fi Direct -- whether or not that'll happen on a large scale was a question the Wi-Fi Alliance couldn't answer for us. Finally, they noted that the app ecosystem is likely to make this whole rollout a lot more interesting, particularly considering that Direct is simply a pipe that software can dictate as it sees fit. We'll be keeping a close eye on the developments here; we've waited way too long for this to blossom, but we're pretty jazzed about the possibilities. Head on past the break for a video overview of how Wi-Fi Direct works.