Microsoft’s 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.