Intel has opted for the 802.11b wireless short-range networking standard in their next generation AnyPoint wireless-LAN hardware. This decision changed their course from a plan to include the next generation version of HomeRF, a related standard, in the home environment. It may mark a turning point in HomeRF and 802.11b adoption. (Read the story at EETimes.com.)
When I was researching a huge New York Times piece about wireless networks for public use in places like airports and coffee shops (archived here), I heard from many sources that HomeRF was not going to be an ultimately successful player. Of course, most of these sources were either manufacturing 802.11b equipment, or deploying it. So I had to take it with a grain of salt, and that scepticism didn't enter into the final piece.
But I'll admit that while I try to view the field without bias, it was clear that Proxim was driving the HomeRF standard, and 802.11b - not least because it was an IEEE promulgated specification - had broad industry support. No one has to drive 802.11b because so many companies were involved in a consensus-based process to build the standard. It's also an evolution of a standard that's been under development for several years.
HomeRF, on the other hand, needed an advocate in the form of Proxim, the company that came up with the basics. Now, most sources I spoke to agreed that there was a niche home-networking purpose for HomeRF, because HomeRF has a guaranteed "schedule" that allows voice conversations and data to intermingle without losing voice quality. 802.11b lacks this feature, requiring underlying applications to handle their own scheduling. This could result in dropouts and lags.
But it seems to me that the 802.11b juggernaut had already rolled over HomeRF, partly because HomeRF wasn't allowed to work at the same high speeds as 802.11b until approval from the FCC last August. 802.11b has been able to run at 11 Mbps (raw speed; actual data transfer without overhead is about 7 Mbps) since 1999. HomeRF products that can run at its newly approved 10 Mbps flavor won't be available in lots of devices until summer. (They can also run at 22 Mbps in a new specification using the same frequency rules, but that's not going to be in shipping equipment for at least another year.)
According to the EE Times story, this delay is one factor that drove Intel to drop HomeRF 2.0 (the 10 Mbps standard) in their AnyPoint devices. Another was the fast and extensive penetration of 802.11b devices in the home - a charge led by a number of vendors now with their $300 or less home gateways. (See related cheap gateways article.)
HomeRF isn't yet out of the picture, and Motorola and Siemens both have serious commitments to ship HomeRF equipment in set-top cable boxes, home gateways, and telephone receivers. We'll see what's up by summer.