Consumer Confusion Over UWB Is Good For Consumers?
By Mike Masnick, Fri Jul 23 01:00:00 GMT 2004

The two sides battling to become the official UWB standard still can't come to an agreement. However, some seem to think this is a good thing.

Motorola and Intel have been fighting hard over which version of UWB will be the official standard. After last year's heated battle ended in deadlock, both sides decided to push forward, bringing their own versions to market and hoping the market would agree on a de facto version. The problem, of course, is that both sides are coming to market with completely incompatible versions of UWB, causing consumer confusion, and slowing down practical adoption of a technology that has many different uses.

Last week, at the latest IEEE conference, the UWB standards debate was re-enacted and, as expected, the deadlocked result remained. However, apparently noting the ongoing worries about the idea of two competing versions of the same standard being in the market place at once, some are trying to spin the story as a good thing, saying that the competition is good for the customer in that it will allow the better technology to triumph.

Open market competition is definitely an overall good for the consumer. It forces each competitor to make sure its product is as strong as it can be. However, open competition under the same brand name is very problematic. If the two sides agreed to compete with their own products, but neither were called UWB, it would be much less of a problem. HomeRF and Wi-Fi competed for local area networking, and eventually Wi-Fi won. Consumer confusion was minimized, since the two sides were clearly separate. However, with both sides calling its product UWB without any compatibility, it creates consumer confusion and disillusionment with the concept of UWB. It's damaging to the overall standard. Vendors will shy away from producing UWB products, and consumers risk getting UWB products that don't actually work together, damaging their impression of the technology. Competition is a good thing, but consumer confusion is a bad thing. When the competition leads to consumer confusion then it's causing more problems than it's solving.