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Toshiba, Intel unite in wireless push

Eager to profit from the growing popularity of "hot spots," the companies launch a campaign to accelerate the adoption of high-speed wireless access to the Internet.

Eager to profit from the growing popularity of wireless "hot spots," Toshiba and Intel on Monday announced a campaign that they hope will accelerate the adoption of high-speed wireless access to the Internet.

The two companies want the alliance--using direct marketing and advertising--to increase awareness of wireless hot spots at public locations like airports, coffee shops, hotels and convenience stores.

Both companies are on a tear to accelerate the use of the hot spots, where people can connect to the Internet over networking technology-based 802.11b and 802.11a standards. As hot spots proliferate, companies from various industries have been seeking ways to provide the Wi-Fi services to business travelers, who are more likely than consumers to be willing to pay for wireless Internet access. Many hot spots offer free access, but security concerns often keep business travelers from tapping into the network.

A wide range of technology companies and cellular players are investing in promoting Wi-Fi either by selling wireless networking gear or by forming alliances to provide hot spot service. Intel and Toshiba are doing both.

Intel is blanketing the industry with new hot spot deals and alliances ahead of the Wednesday launch of its Centrino wireless technology. The new chips and related products are designed to build wireless capabilities into notebook PCs. Centrino includes the Pentium-M processor, a chipset and a Wi-Fi module.

As one of the top notebook makers, Toshiba also has much to gain from accelerating the adoption of Wi-Fi technology by businesses and consumers, because portable computers remain the central device used to connect to Wi-Fi networks. Just last week, the company announced a deal with technology services company Accenture to build up to 10,000 hot spots across North America by the end of the year. The company already offers a number of notebook models with built-in Wi-Fi capabilities.

The alliance also calls for the two companies to perform verification that Intel's Centrino technology works with Toshiba's network.