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WebGear joins home networking push

The company announces a wireless connection scheme for linking up computers and other devices in the home.

WebGear became the latest company to weigh in on the home networking front, saying it will offer products in early 1999 for connecting PCs, printers, and even entertainment devices into a wireless local network.

WebGear's AviatorUSB lets users connect PCs or peripherals such as printers to each other via a small transmitter connected to a central PCs universal serial bus (USB) port. Users can also share Internet connections with the use of included software, instead of installing additional phone lines or opening separate ISP accounts, the company said.

By using radio frequency technology in the 900 megahertz spectrum (which is used by some cordless phones), the AviatorUSB hub can connect devices that are up to 125 feet apart and share data at up to 1 megabits per second (Mbps).

A variety of technologies and standards efforts revolving around wireless and wired "home networks" are now brewing as more homes add second PCs and other digital devices such as handheld computers. Analysts estimate that about 20 million homes have more than one PC, an indicator that there is a growing market to connect PCs to each other and a network.

But, while vendors are continuing to jump into the market for home networking equipment, analysts say a mass market for home networking is years away.

For its part, San Jose, California-based WebGear isn't banking entirely on the home market. Jeremy Burns, president of the company, said that the market for small offices is a lucrative one because there are often multiple PCs that aren't networked because of set-up costs or technology support. The ability to connect PCs and peripherals easily, therefore, should appeal to this market.

A two-user version of AviatorUSB is $199, and additional modules are priced at $99. The devices are expected to be available in February 1999, according to the company's Web site.