Microsoft is preparing to release extended security and support for Wi-Fi connections to Windows 2000 as well as its version of the operating system for handheld devices.
The company said that it is building the new capabilities around the growing Wi-Fi security standard 802.1x, further strengthening support for the technology.
Microsoft has already included similar wireless security with its XP desktop operating system, but analysts maintain that extending the capabilities to its other platforms is essential.
"Enabling wireless security is becoming a must going forward," said Gallen Schreck, an analyst at Forrester Research.
The Wired Equivalent Privacy standard that has long provided security on wireless data networks has been shown to be vulnerable to hackers for the past two years.
Security weakness is one of the biggest concerns affecting the deployment of wireless networks in the corporate environment.
According to Microsoft, the trial software has already attracted around 150 companies committed to testing before its general release which is expected to be in August.
The new additions to existing Microsoft platforms are expected to be made available as a free download, according to analysts, who also expect the upgrades to enable older Microsoft operating systems to switch between wireless and wired connections.
Built-in Wi-Fi support in Windows XP means that when a user with a wireless card gets within range of a Wi-Fi network, a dialogue box pops up and asks if a connection should be made.
Microsoft's commitment is a significant boost to the take-up of the standard, according to analysts.
"There is no more significant a backer for this security standard than Microsoft. Until now the largest backers have been hardware suppliers," explained Schreck.
Microsoft said that its implementation of 802.1x will also allow network administrators to control just how much access someone has to a corporate or home wireless network.
The new security standard does not bring all the answers to Wi-Fi security concerns, however. "802.1x only deals with authentication, it does not deliver any encryption," said Schreck.
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