Microsoft heads for home networking

The software titan is looking to uncork a bottleneck for its software and services in the home by selling networking products, starting this fall.

Microsoft is looking to uncork a bottleneck for its software and services in the home by selling networking products, starting this fall, company representatives said.

The software giant has a team developing 802.11b wireless home networking products within the same hardware division that creates keyboards and mice. Company representatives declined to comment on the details of the future products, but said that entering the home networking market was in line with the software giant's interests.

Companies such as Apple Computer and Hewlett-Packard have been aggressively selling similar products for years.

"We want to enable software and services through the home, and we've found that there is a bottleneck and it's in the network," said Adam LeVasseur, a Microsoft product manager. "Right now, it's too hard to use networking products, and we want to make the process simple."

LeVasseur added that the company chose 802.11b products because it is a widespread technology, notable for its use in public hot spots. While they are evaluating next-generation wireless home networking technologies, they are focusing on the fall launch of the 802.11b products. The company has just sent the second and final beta versions for its networking products to independent testers across North America.

Devices using the 802.11b standard can wirelessly transfer data, such as Web pages and files, across networks at rates of up to 11mbps and distances of up to 300 feet.

Dominic Ainscough, an analyst with research firm The Yankee Group, said that Microsoft is keeping up with the evolving nature of the PC.

"The PC is becoming a media center, and getting into home networking helps to build around and further extend the uses of the PC," Ainscough said. "They are helping to create a platform that goes beyond the office and extends into the rest of the home."

About 35 percent of PC owners are interested in home networking, Ainscough said.

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