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Connectify Is Early Evidence of Why Win7's "Virtual Wi-Fi" Matters

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4055433795_5fd5045e79_oMicrosoft’s (s msft) Windows 7 operating system, as we noted when it rolled out last week, contains a highly interesting software layer — invented and developed at the company’s in-house research division — that enables “virtual Wi-Fi.” Essentially, it allows a user to group multiple Wi-Fi connections together to boost coverage and speeds. It stands to have an immediate impact on Wi-Fi users, but could also impact various broadband access technologies over time.

Kevin over at jkOnTheRun today discusses new beta software called Connectify that takes advantage of the feature to “turn your Windows 7 laptop into a Wi-Fi hotspot.” Here’s why this technology is significant, and where it’s headed.

The day before Windows 7 was launched, I sat down in our offices with a team of three people from Microsoft to discuss the new operating system, only to learn that none of them were aware of the virtual Wi-Fi software layer that it has. This really surprised me given that previous versions of Windows have bundled connectivity and networking technologies in such a way as to cause sweeping usage changes.

There are multiple ways to share wireless connections; many people do so with the MiFi device. Connectify, though, takes direct advantage of the virtual Wi-Fi features in Windows 7 to create a software-based wireless router for Wi-Fi sharing. Just imagine the range and coverage possibilities that can come of turning your laptop into a router. (You can read more about how virtual Wi-Fi works here.)

As Kevin notes:

“With Connectify, you have a software solution to share the data connection of your PC — a secure hotspot with WPA2-Personal (AES) encryption is created via a virtual Wi-Fi interface, so any other Wi-Fi device you have can take advantage of your mobile broadband connection. And this differs from tethering options we’ve covered in the past because tethering generally only allows one other device to leverage the connection. By creating a Wi-Fi hotspot, multiple devices can join in.”

That’s pretty slick, and has sold me on trying out Connectify. It’s likely that we’ll see other interesting extensions of the virtual Wi-Fi software layer in Windows 7 as well, including applications with broadband technologies other than Wi-Fi.

12 Responses to “Connectify Is Early Evidence of Why Win7's "Virtual Wi-Fi" Matters”

  1. Connectify Press

    Thanks for writing about Connectify. We thought you may want to know that Connectify 1.0 is now available for free as the first production ready release. Some older wireless cards do not yet have full Windows 7 support, and for those devices Connectify will act as an Ad Hoc connection manager, instead of a full blown Wi-Fi Access Point.

    Changes since Beta 4 include:

    • Improved Notification tray icons (including a warning icon if the selected Internet connection is not currently working)

    • Support for even more wireless cards and configurations

    • Improved memory and CPU management

    • Recover from sleep/hibernate

    • Support for machines where multiple users install Connectify and log on at same time

    • Ability to remove clients from the Client History list (right click to get menu)

    • Auto-hiding of the Mode box. By default we hide the “Mode” box to choose between AP or Ad Hoc mode. If your wireless card supports both, then we default to Access Point mode. To keep the mode box visible, there is an option on the Option menu (right click on the Connectify logo to show the menu).
    Thank you again for your support.

  2. Scott HanselmanScott Hanselman

    Not really, Eric P. and Mike.

    While Internet Connection Sharing is not at all new, as you point out, this is very different. For example, ICS on XP lets you share a Wired Connection over an AdHoc Wifi. You still need TWO network adapters. Also, an AdHoc Wifi isn’t an access point that many people and use.

    Connectify creates a second virtual wifi network using the same hardware. This means you can actually share your wifi connection using only one adapter. You can secure it with WPA and it’s a real access point, not an AdHoc Network.

  3. Mike Puchol

    This functionality has been available for eons on Mac OS, where you could create a WiFi hotspot and share your cabled connection over it. On Windows, there has been similar software for a few years too, via software like 2hotspot. What is novel is the capability to bundle connections for increased bandwidth and reliability, kudos to Microsoft!