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Intel gear made easy

The company releases a low-end series of equipment that it intends to bundle as an entry into networking for those offices just learning the benefits of the technology.

On your marks. Get set. Go.

Racing to package complicated pieces of networking technology into a cohesive, easily understandable offering for small businesses, Intel (INTC) released a low-end series of equipment today that it intends to bundle as an entry into networking for those offices just learning the benefits of the technology.

The company's new line, called InBusiness, is partially made up of technology and products gained in the acquisition of Dayna Communications last September. Intel executives highlighted the benefits of the gear--largely made up of Ethernet-based equipment--as a network and Net access "solution," with the company even pushing various setups, one of which carries a list price of just more than $1,500.

Intel's target is the low-end Ethernet-based niche dominated by networking giant 3Com. Other price-conscious players also play well in this market, like D-Link Systems. Looming in the background is Cisco Systems, which plans to launch a series of low-end initiatives, beginning tomorrow with the introduction of new equipment.

Ethernet remains the dominant means to connect PCs and servers together in what is called a LAN, or local area network. A typical LAN is a department within a corporation or a layout found within a small business at a single locale. Intel's gear covers both 10 mbps (megabits per second) and 100 mbps speeds.

Included in the launch is an InBusiness Internet Station that allows multiple users to connect to the Net across analog or ISDN (integrated services digital network) lines, several shared bandwidth "hub" devices that connect PCs to a network, and two new switches, which segment dedicated bandwidth to users.

Rival 3Com has plans in the works to roll out a variety of new gear in the near future, including boxes targeted at the small business environment, as reported by CNET's NEWS.COM last week.

The company, which is approaching the second anniversary of its initial launch of small-office products, predictably downplayed Intel's introduction. "They're a formidable competitor, but in the short-term they will help to grow the market," said Chuck Yort, director of small-business operations at 3Com.

Analysts said Intel's introductions should not be news to rivals, given the noise that has come out of the chip giant on the subject of networking in recent months. "Intel is constantly on 3Com's radar screen," said Dianne Myers, analyst with In-Stat. "I think last year made them realize they can't let their guard down."

Intel undercut 3Com in pricing for Ethernet-based networking cards for PCs, touching off a fierce battle for market share.

Intel's new 10-mbps hubs start at $79 for a five-port model, with 100-mbps hubs starting at $245 for a four-port model. New eight-port 10-mbps switches start at $625. The new Internet Station costs $499. All prices are list.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.