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Gateway eyes net gear for small business

The computer maker plans to begin selling networking equipment to small and midsize businesses, in a move to tap into a new market.

Gateway plans to begin selling networking gear to small and medium-size businesses as it looks to tap into a new market.

The Poway, Calif.-based computer maker has a series of networking product announcements lined up for Tuesday. Among them are plans to offer access points for wireless networks and switches that will include security and management features, with prices aimed to attract small to midsize businesses. The features are generally found in more-expensive gear that targets large businesses willing to pay to protect sensitive data traveling wirelessly over networks.

One analyst was cautious about the move.

"In both cases (for access points and switches) Gateway is going into highly commoditized markets, and the last thing those markets need is more products," said David Passmore, research director with analyst firm Burton Group. "The only way to compete is on the basis of price and distribution."

That is the company's strategy, according to Gateway's Chad McDonald, manager of networking products.

"Small and medium-size businesses are looking for security and ease of use but couldn't get their hands on enterprise class products because of price," McDonald said. "We see an unaddressed market opportunity here."

The access points and switches represent Gateway's initial attempt to attract small to medium-size businesses with networking gear.

Gateway will begin selling access points with auto-configuration software and security specifications as well as network switches to improve management capabilities.

Gateway will begin selling its 802.11g-based 7000 series access points on Tuesday for $299. Access points based on the 802.11a and 802.11g standards will be available on April 13 for $399. IBM's Global Services will provide customer support for these devices and will be sold as a service through Gateway.

Gateway will also begin selling three families of switches as it looks to cover a transition in network throughput from 10/100 megabits per second to 1 gigabit per second.

"Some companies are moving over to gigabit networks and they don't want the switches to be the bottlenecks," McDonald said.

The 7200 and 7400 series unmanaged switches are meant to be for smaller businesses looking to easily install wireless networks. The 7200 series will start at $79 for a 16-port 10/100 switch and range up to a 24-port 10/100 switch with two 1-gigabit ports for $199. The 7400 series will start at $99 for a 5-port 10/100/1000 switch and go up to a 24-port 10/100/1000 switch for $399.

The 7600 series of managed switches target larger businesses with built-in SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) capabilities for network control and console, telnet and Web browser management interfaces. The 7600 series will start at $399 for a 24-port 10/100 switch with two 10/100/1000 ports and range up to a 48-port 10/100/1000 switch for $799.

All the switches are set to become available starting Tuesday.

Gateway announced late Thursday that it will close its 188 retail stores on April 9 and cut up to about 40 percent of its work force.