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Farallon unveils Mac home networking kit

Farallon is shipping a new home networking kit that lets people connect their Macintoshes with other Macs or PCs simply by plugging them into already installed phone lines.

Networking Apple Macintoshes just got easier.

Farallon today is shipping a new home networking kit that lets people connect their Macintoshes with other Macs or PCs simply by plugging them into already installed phone lines.

Previous technology--such as the AppleTalk language with Ethernet cards or LocalTalk, Apple's built-in networking standard--required users to string cables between Macs. Farallon's new product, called HomeLine, removes the need for wiring and allows consumers to easily connect computers to share Internet access, printers, and files, or play multiplayer games.

"The early adopters who understand Ethernet and the wiring can do the wiring, but it's not for my mom. This targets the population not used to networking," said Ken Haase, Farallon's marketing director.

As reported earlier, Farallon is using Intel's home networking chip and software to build their networking product.

The first version of HomeLine is strictly for desktop Macs and PCs and includes two cross-platform networking cards that plug into PCI slots. It can connect Macs to Macs, Macs to PCs, and even PCs to PCs. Future versions to be released later this summer will support iMacs and PowerBooks through Ethernet or USB ports.

Yankee Group analyst Karuna Uppal said Farallon has found a market that has been virtually ignored by other home networking vendors, such as Intel and Diamond Multimedia, whose products are strictly PC-based.

"They've attacked a niche of the market that no one has served up to this point, especially since it's cross-platform," said Uppal.

According to Farallon's Haase, about 18 million households currently have multiple PCs in their homes--and between three to four million of them have a mix of Macs and PCs.

The first version of the HomeLine kit will feature 1 mbps speeds, with future versions supporting 10 mbps, which will provide speeds fast enough to support video transfers, Haase said.

The kit is expected to cost $139, with a single adapter priced at $79. The kit includes a free trial version of Miramar Systems' PC Mac LAN software, which lets users share printers and files between Macs and PCs.