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Wireless push extends to home networking

Home networking is attracting the interest of smaller companies such as 2Wire and giants like Cisco as high-speed connections and multiple PCs in homes become more common.

LAS VEGAS--2Wire will take a major step for its home networking gateway next year, adding wireless capability to its HomePortal product line.

2Wire builds special-purpose servers for homes that join PCs and any other Internet-enabled device to DSL or high-speed cable Internet connections. The devices have Ethernet ports for hooking up one PC; for building a whole network, the current HomePortals rely on Home Phoneline Networking Alliance technology, which piggybacks a computer network on top of a house's telephone lines.

That will change in January, though, when 2Wire introduces a new product that uses wireless networks, channel sales manager Michael Girvan Lampe said during the Comdex trade show. The wireless networking ability will cost more, however: about $499 to $549, compared with the current $299 HomePNA model.

Home networking gateways have attracted the interest of smaller companies such as 2Wire and giants such as Cisco. The product category has emerged as high-speed broadband Internet connections and homes with more than one computer become more common.

Residential gateways command a higher price than mere modems, and companies see residential gateways as a way to spread their own technological vision of the future. For example, Sun Microsystems wants to make sure residential gateways can run Java software.

Another company angling for the residential gateway market is Rebel.com, an Ottawa, Canada company that sells the diminutive Netwinder Linux server product line the company acquired from Corel. A new Netwinder 3100 is expected in early 2001 built on Transmeta's Crusoe processor, and another model arriving later in 2001 will add wireless connection abilities, said spokeswoman Nicole Baker.

Current Netwinders use Intel's StrongARM chip, but "at this point, we're going with Crusoe," Baker said. Pricing on the new Netwinders hasn't been established yet, she added.

2Wire's residential gateways use Phillips' TriMedia processor and Wind River's pSOS embedded operating system, Lampe said.

Dell Computer sells the 2Wire systems through its DellWare site. Dell is the only computer seller 2Wire sells through, but the company also has sales agreements with retailers such as Office Depot and CompUSA as well as with Internet service providers Earthlink, Covad, Verizon, Northpoint and others, he said.

2Wire won't be following competitors' plans to let such sales partners sell the gateway with their own brand names attached, he said. "There will be no private labeling."

2Wire showed off its products at a Las Vegas house outfitted by Dell with a variety of high-tech gadgets.