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Intel, Linksys partner to improve Wi-Fi

The chipmaker and the wireless gear maker are aiming to make it easier for consumers to use Wi-Fi technology, as the companies look to gain a stronger foothold in the emerging market.

Intel and Linksys announced a partnership aimed at making it easier for consumers to use wireless networking technology, as the two companies look to gain a stronger foothold in the emerging market.

Chipmaker Intel and Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems, on Monday said the co-marketing and development program will improve the set-up and operation of Wi-Fi networks in homes and small offices between Linksys products and devices using Intel's Centrino technology.

"We want to make sure that when an access point and end point are detected it will be a smooth experience for the consumer," Charlie Giancarlo, a senior vice president at Cisco, said during a conference call. "The initial set-up procedure will be easier."

Cisco acquired Linksys, the market leader in shipments of Wi-Fi equipment, in June in a stock deal valued at $500 million. Wi-Fi is wireless networking technology that allows subscribers to access a network wirelessly and share resources.

The companies have a lot riding on the partnership. Intel has invested $300 million in marketing its Centrino bundle of chips, which include a Wi-Fi component. In the next five years, according to data from research firm Pyramid Research, 707 million people will be using Wi-Fi technology worldwide.

Currently, notebook PCs have to be manually configured to interact with a wireless network. But Intel and Linksys said that under the program, the two companies' products can be used in the same network and no configuration on the part of the consumer will be necessary. Products that fit under this bill will have a label on their packaging saying, "Verified with Intel Centrino Mobile Technology." Devices with these labels will be available starting this month.

Industry groups such as the Wi-Fi Alliance test for interoperability among gadgets using Wi-Fi technology, but they don't test for user experience, Giancarlo said.

Anand Chandrasekher, vice president of Intel's mobile platforms group, said the companies are "going to build on what has already been accomplished by the Wi-Fi Alliance."

The partnership is not the first time the two companies have worked together on Wi-Fi technology. Linksys is using an Intel design for its Cisco Wireless-B Media Adapter. The device will cost $200 and will be available in August. Media adapters make it easier for consumers to play digital content on gadgets other than the PC on which it's stored.

The companies would not detail other future development efforts but said that security is a "gaping hole...and is clearly an area to target."