Blog Post

Devicescape in Overhype Mode

Devicescape, a San Bruno company that makes Wi-Fi software put out a press release that is basically a whole bunch of lies. They claim that their software “enables effortless network access for Wi-Fi Devices – Any Device, Any Network, Any Time.” Talk about a headline that fudges the truth. Of course, at the bottom of the press release the company makes a little confession:

Devices supported: PCs with Windows XP, Windows Mobile 5 Smartphones, the Nokia 770 Web tablet and the Linksys WIP 300 VoIP phone. Many more planned

Planned is such an ephemeral word, and doesn’t mean anything. For instance, I have plans to date Ms. Universe. An “Any Device” claim should at least include the Symbian devices such as E61, E70, or a Mac laptop. How about Belkin Wi-Fi phones? Or Vonage phones? “Any Device” is a long list.

I wonder who is making decisions at this company. I understand that WinMobile phones need special software to help easily connect to networks like T-Mobile’s, which is stuck in the dark ages of the dumb “Web-based gateway access” model. But if you use a PC, the browser can remember your password and username, so it is a lot less painful and the need for Devicescape software isn’t that immediate.

The devices that desperately need Devicescape-like software are mobile phones with Wi-Fi. If you look at the networks their software supports, Devicescape is highly skewed to the European markets – markets where people are big Symbian users. The sales of Wi-Fi-enabled dual mode handsets (that use Symbian OS) are increasing in Europe. And yet, there is no Devicescape client software for Symbian phones. Instead they develop a client for the Nokia Tablet, a device whose actual sales numbers are embarrassingly small.

Devicescape is a white-label solutions provider and wants to sell their software to device makers or network operators. The company, which had raised nearly $12.2 million in venture funding from the likes of August Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has just raised undisclosed millions in the third round of funding, according to Matt Marshall. Hopefully that will help bring the software to devices that actually need it.

Glenn Fleishman has details on how the system works:

…allows access at public hotspots that require authentication by tunneling login information via DNS. The handheld device stores no authentication information, and uses the tunneled credentials and other details to perform the login; entering credentials and account details occurs at a Web site.

8 Responses to “Devicescape in Overhype Mode”

  1. Even though no one has commented on this in the past year and half, I thought it necessary to post an update since this is one of the top ten results when “devicescape” is googled. Ok first off, whoever said

    “How difficult is it anyways to connect to a wireless network?”

    hasn’t had a mobile device that can connect to wifi. I.e. the iphone, which has gotten very popular since devicescape started and the version for the old jailbroken iphones made life soooo much easier for all it’s users. I’m in desperate need of this or something like it for my version iphone version 2.1 now, since they haven’t updated their jailbroken version yet somehow.

    Also, their list of networks is quite extensive now, and it even includes smaller networks for people who go to Universities and whatnot. Ok I could say a lot more but I just wanted anyone who read this to think twice about devicescape as described by all these people who didn’t know what they were talking about back in January 2007.

  2. Kevin Seawall

    This solution does not sound very useful to me, I was glad to see Dave’s defensive response but here are my points:

    1. I hate installing agents on my machine / PDA, and this is another agent over Microsoft Zero Config, Intel Wireless utility, Firewall, Antivirus, Antispam, … blah..
    2. It does not help me if I want to connect to an unknown network, I will have to do it manually anyways.. like a hotel wireless network or a hotspot not in your “pre-configured” list
    3. How difficult is it anyways to connect to a wireless network ?

    I think the management is confused, googling about Devicescape tells me they started by making Access points and Clients, couldn’t compete in the race.. and are now trying to help people to connect to wireless? – it would have been a great solution 3-4 yrs back.. people know wireless now, its not a privilege to have wireless.. its just another service now :)

  3. Hi Weber,
    WiFi Radar would connect you only to APs that have no security implemented in it. Devicescape solution would enable you to connect to Hot Spots and community wireless that needs you to sign in with out actually going through the manual sign in process.
    The number of devices and Hot Spots supported may be less for now, hope they would add more devices and Hot Spot support.
    This solution gives little comfort for devices that have browser but it is a solution for dumb devices that have no browser or keypad like a camera for instant

  4. Hi Om,

    I’m Dave Fraser, the CEO of Devicescape. I want to clarify some things and give our point of view.

    “Any device” relates to the fact that our software can bring this automated access to any product. Bring on the tiny, simple gear and the odd operating systems. Our software footprint is extremely small (<50k) and works behind the scenes so it’s appropriate for all manner of devices, and we do have a history of providing our Wi-Fi software to these (eg Palm PDAs, Motorola phones, etc).

    Since we only now launched this new product, we support the range of devices that we could work on with a software download: laptops, smartphone, and even the Nokia 770. I would completely agree that the devices that really need automated connection are not yet available, but for these devices to have our support the software needs to be embedded, and that will come only as we see licensing from the device makers. Hence the “planned” word. We do have a Symbian port close to release, which we talked about on our community forums along with some other cool new products too.

    “Any network” speaks to the fact that the guts of our system is web based. We support over 30 networks today, but it’s trivial for us to add new ones and doesn’t require any change to the software on the device or investment from the network operators. It’s easy for us to add new networks and our users can request we add their favorites by sending information to us via a web form on our site. Beyond our extensive coverage in Europe (added mostly by our growing user base there) we have good coverage in Japan, and also provide support for the largest commercial network providers in the US, the municipal networks including Google Mountain View, and many free networks and universities including UC Berkeley. We just started, however, and we’ll add many new ones as requested since the system has unlimited headroom.

    Merrill Lynch expects that there will be over 1 billion Wi-Fi devices in the market by 2010. Most of these devices will not have a browser. Devicescape Connect can be embedded into any and all of these devices and would enable these to then work with the growing number of supported Wi-Fi networks. That is – in essence – any device, any network, anytime.


  5. I tried this on my internet tablet and did not actually see anything happening… I’d consider myself pretty savvy with apps and devices, but I did not get it. I thought it would be similar to birdstep smartroaming, where you define a stack of connections, but I was left stumped.