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Linksys adapters make a play for gamers

The wireless networking company is targeting gaming enthusiasts with two new adapters that are designed to connect game consoles with each other and to the Internet.

Wireless networking gear maker Linksys is targeting the gaming crowd with its new Wi-Fi adapters.

Linksys, the newly acquired division of Cisco Systems, on Wednesday announced two new adapters that are designed to connect game consoles, including Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube, to each other and to the Internet for online multiplayer gaming. The new adapters are available immediately and are based on the 802.11b and 802.11g wireless networking standards.

The 802.11b-based adapter, called the Wireless-B Game Adapter, costs $79, while the 802.11g-based Wireless-G Game Adapter costs $129. The 802.11g standard has a higher throughput--up to 54 megabits per second--than the 802.11b standard, which allows for 11 megabits of data per second to be transferred over a network.

The devices are part of an effort among gear makers to make Wi-Fi networks the de facto method for sending and receiving content and a means to share resources connected to the network. More and more manufacturers are trying to make it easier for consumers to connect common household products to the network.

"We're seeing the wireless network evolve from just something to share the Internet connection to sharing content and entertainment as well as data," said Mike Wagner, director of marketing at Linksys. "As networks become more common, people are looking for what else they can plug into it."

The 802.11 wireless networking market is expected to grow from a $1.5 billion business in 2002 to $3.1 billion in 2007, according to a recent report from research firm Dell'Oro Group. The biggest trend likely will be the transition from products and networks based on the 802.11b standard to the 802.11g and combination 802.11a/802.11g standards.

In-Stat/MDR analyst Gemma Paulo said household devices such as DVD players and digital video recorders need to be opened up so that they can be connected to a network. However, she said, manufacturers also should look to make installations easier.

Wagner said that's something Linksys focused on with its new gaming adapters, which don't require drivers or even a PC to allow consoles to connect to one another. The company has partnered with chipmaker Intel to improve the setup and operation of Wi-Fi networks in homes and small offices between Linksys products and devices that use Intel's Centrino technology.