Why Windows XP isn't going to be a mobile phone OS any day soon ...

by Guy Kewney | posted on 12 February 2004

It was, of course, very clever of Microsoft to invent "zero config" drivers for WiFi - allowing you to just plug in any wireless card and run under Windows XP. At least, it would have been clever, if they'd made a workmanlike job of it; but it's now official - out of Microsoft's own mouth - that they made a pig of it.

Guy Kewney

The Knowledgebase admits that yes, people will occasionally discover that when they try to connect to a WLAN (wireless local area network) Windows XP will lock up.

"When you start up your computer, you may have to wait up to three minutes for Microsoft Windows XP to connect to your wireless network. During this time, the computer does not respond to your commands," it describes the symptom.

How do you fix this?

You don't: "This behavior is expected. You must wait up to three minutes for the network configuration to complete."

The world is getting quite excited about the idea of WiFi phones right now. One can try to imagine a WiFi phone with XP on it, taking three minutes before you can make or receive a phone call. Is this a problem? Not at all, says Microsoft!

Apparently, the symptoms arise "because the wireless network card driver may not respond immediately" when Windows XP initialises the network components and associates the wireless network card driver with the Client for Microsoft Networks feature. "Therefore, Client for Microsoft Networks may wait up to two minutes until the wireless network card responds. When this behaviour occurs, Windows XP appears to stop responding."

This does not explain the occasions when XP just throws the network away and refuses to connect to it, of course. And you don't have to be a dumb journalist to see this happen.

It's only a couple of months since I had to watch the Chairman of the WiFi Alliance, Dennis Eaton, sit and struggle with his laptop at a London WLAN conference, because although the two of us were both sitting right next to an open hotspot, and both of us could see the access point, his XP installation wouldn't connect, even after two reboots.

You think I'm making this up, I can tell. Nope: it's official - see the Knowledgebase as published by Microsoft itself. And thanks to Wi-Fi Networking News for the pointer.

You can discuss this article on our discussion board.