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Wi-Fi pushes beyond the laptop

Cisco Systems' Linksys division is set to start selling a device that uses Wi-Fi to connect computers to stereos and televisions.

Manufacturers are adding Wi-Fi wireless connections to media adapters that let home electronics equipment play music or show photos stored on personal computers.

Media adapters make it easier for consumers


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to play digital content on something other than the personal computer on which it's stored. Manufacturers are trying to capitalize on the popularity of digital cameras and downloadable digital music. Most adapters use cables to connect televisions and stereos to a personal computer.

Both Cisco Systems' Wireless-B Media Adapter, introduced Monday, and Sony's RoomLink rely on a Wi-Fi access point and eliminate the need for cables. Wi-Fi networks, already in millions of homes and offices, use the 802.11b standard to create 300-foot areas where files can be wirelessly downloaded at up to 11 megabits per second. Both devices cost $200.

The wireless adapters are another sign of how Wi-Fi connectivity is beginning to expand its reach beyond laptops. Just two years ago, it was rare to find something other than a laptop on a Wi-Fi network. Along with home entertainment devices, tablet PCs, printers and handheld computers, stereos and televisions now employ Wi-Fi's 2.4mbps file-shuttling prowess.

"The result is a new line of wireless home products that add on to the home network to provide connectivity and access to other devices around the home," said Mike Wagner, director of marketing at Linksys.

The Linksys Wireless-B Media Adapter underwent development difficulties. Linksys promised to release the adapter by May; it will hit the market almost three months late. "We were shooting for May, but to blow our customers away, we spent more time on it," a representative for Cisco's Linksys division said.

The devices, as with most early generations of equipment, have their drawbacks. Sony's device only works with other Sony devices and can only use wireless networks that are based on the relatively unpopular 802.11a standard. The Linksys adapter is only for PCs that run on the Windows XP operating system.

Also, the Linksys media adapter isn't capable of working with video, ruling it out as a wireless shuttle between a cable TV modem and a TV.