One of the new supported features which was revealed with Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0 announcement last month was the build-in native OS support for W-LAN for Windows Mobile Smartphones.
Unlike current implementation, where you need a 3rd party Wi-Fi driver for your Smartphone (which have to be developed for the W-LAN card since non of the current Smartphones have build-in Wi-Fi capabilities and hardware) like the Socket solution for the Sagem myS-7, a build-in solution always have the charm of deeper and smoother integration.
I had the chance today, to play with a Windows Mobile 5.0 development Smartphone which already includes W-LAN hardware. Since I'm under several NDAs, I can not talk about the hardware yet but for sure I can share my impressions in terms of the software and how it works.
With Windows Mobile 5.0, Wi-Fi is part of the "Connections" menu (if Wi-Fi is included and part of the hardware, otherwise manufactures can disable this menu-item) where Bluetooth, CSD dial-up and GPRS is located also. After you turn it on, it shows you all available W-LAN networks (but doesn't gives an information if a W-LAN is secured or not).
However, for sure you can either add network keys for WEP enabled W-LANs or use 802.1x to get connected to an available Wi-Fi network. Also you are able to chose how you want to use this network (Internet versus VPN but for sure, "thanks" to the new ActiveSync 4.0 integration you can not select synchronization to your PC anymore but to an Exchange server only).
Done, that's it. Now you are connected with your selected W-LAN and you can either surf through the web, send and receive E-Mails or access your corporate network.
An interesting and battery saving feature is that the Smartphone asks every 60 seconds of idleness, if it should disconnects and turn off the W-LAN functionality. You can either cancel this or accept, if you are not responding, it will disconnects itself automatically anyway.
The W-LAN integration is easy to use and integrated well. Everybody who is used to use W-LANs should be able to use it without any problems.
However, right now I'm not sure if we will see Wi-Fi support in the first wave of released devices, not because the implementation isn't ready yet but I don't know how carriers will use/includes it, if you buy a device from a carrier. On the other hand, I'm sure that OEMs like Carrier Devices (with its i-mate devices) will include it since they don't have to care the GPRS revenue of carriers.
Cheers ~ Arne