The company that produced the first wireless switch for businesses, Symbol, has made a play for the branch office with an all-in-one device.

The WS2000 includes a firewall, router, a wired Ethernet switch, Power over Ethernet and management software for Symbol's wireless access points.

Several Wi-Fi companies are targeting branch offices, having already launched large switches for their customers' main offices, but their approach is divided. While Airespace has launched a single branch access point configured by the central office switch, Symbol is following the approach of ReefEdge, which offers a cheaper switch for branch offices.

Symbol considered developing its 4131 access point: "Should we build another Access Point that has high sense of services in it and bring that to the marketplace?” said Gary Singh, marketing director of Symbol. "It would be a little bit cheaper to go down that path, but we had huge success in the customer acceptance of the [switched] architecture."

The WS2000 uses the same wireless technology as the high-end WS5000, reviewed here. It has power on four of its six Ethernet ports. Singh said this was the most cost-effective approach, as more power would put up the cost of the box, without meeting a demand: "We couldn't find anyone who needed more than four access points in a branch office," said Singh. In an office where all desktops are unwired, the other two ports are for a server and a printer.

The device has a graphical interface, for features such as setting up separate VLANs, to keep secure traffic away from any guest wireless access. It also has storage in the form of a Compact Flash slot, intended for sharing information amongst the workers in a branch, for instance updating their sales collateral.

Some observers felt the product was too gung-ho in making wireless central. "There's not enough about moving from a wired environment or combining wired and wireless," said Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis. "Symbol is being too evangelical." The WS2000 is designed for Greenfield sites, or companies junking existing access routers and wired connections to desktops, he said.

The WS2000 costs $999 (£530), or $1,099 (£583) with one access point included.

As the first into the wireless switch market, Symbol has a large share of an emerging sector. Analysts are not generally talking numbers yet as the market is so new, but Infonetics Research's Richard Webb says it is pretty sure that Symbol is the leader. The company has also reaped some of the plum partner agreements, including virtual AP technology that lets one access point have several MAC addresses for quality of service purposes.

For more on how Symbol relates to other vendors, see our overview article on the architecture wars.

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