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Microsoft: Wireless LANs Minimize Equipment and Setup Time for Product Demonstrations

Microsoft offers its customers a wide variety of services and programs. One of those services is keeping customers up-to-date on Microsoft's leading-edge software solutions.

Application: Setting Up On-Site Product Demonstrations
When Microsoft was about to release Windows 95, many Fortune 1000 customers expected to adopt it, along with the corresponding upgrade for the Microsoft Office suite. They needed to know ahead of time what features the new operating system and applications would offer. To familiarize customers with the upgrades, Microsoft's systems engineers conducted numerous product demonstrations at customer sites in the months before the release. However, setting up the many pieces of equipment needed to stage such demonstrations was cumbersome and time consuming. For a 90-minute demonstration, setting up and tearing down network configurations using standard 10BaseT Ethernet hubs and cabling took about 45 minutes. As one engineer put it, "Setting up equipment is not an effective way of spending time at a customer site." The engineers needed a wireless networking solution that had reasonable range and would minimize setup but that would still be compatible with existing LANs.

One of Microsoft's regional offices, which serves four western states, decided to try out a radio-based wireless LAN system. The system consisted of two or more laptops, each configured with a wireless LAN adapter. Through an access point on a customer's site, the engineers could use the wireless LAN to demonstrate Windows 95 network services by accessing a local file server, printing documents, sending e-mail, or using the Internet.

Benefits: More Demonstrations in Less Time, at Lower Cost
Now that the engineers have no hubs and wires to run, setting up demonstrations is simple. The system's mobility, reliability, and ease of use means that every engineer can conduct more demonstrations each week and has far less equipment to carry from site to site. It also results in lower equipment and transportation costs - a few laptops and wireless adapters are much easier to carry than an Ethernet hub and 30 to 40 feet of cable. Moreover, the system eliminates the need for access to AC power outlets.

"Wireless networking reduces setup time, allowing me to really focus on our software solutions," says Jeff Zalkind, a satisfied senior systems engineer at Microsoft's Denver regional headquarters.

Installation Size
The success of the wireless LAN system at the Denver regional office spurred sales engineers to implement similar networking solutions for customer demonstrations in 15 other Microsoft district offices.

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