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Mac coming to the home networking party

Networking company Farallon Communications is working with Intel to build a home networking product for Apple computers, the companies said today.

SAN MATEO, California--Networking company Farallon Communications is working with Intel to build a home networking product for Apple Macintosh computers, executives from both companies said today.

The Mac-oriented product--due this spring--will allow consumers to use existing home telephone lines to connect their Macintoshes with other Macs and PCs.

The announcement came as Intel trotted out its first home networking product for Windows-based PCs, which allows users to share Internet access, printers, and files.

Farallon is using Intel's home networking chip to build the product, said Ken Haase, Farallon's marketing director. The company will make an official announcement in May to discuss how the product will allow Macintoshes to share files with Windows-based PCs, he said.

Farallon is also currently tracking wireless technology and is considering building wireless home networking products for Macintosh users, Haase added.

Intel partnered with Farallon, because the giant chipmaker felt Mac support was important for the home networking market to start booming, said Dan Sweeney, general manager of Intel's Home Networking Operation. "There's a lot of Mac users that have all Macs, or more importantly, Macs and PCs, and we thought that was important for home networking to take off," he said.

Yankee Group analyst Karuna Uppal believes Farallon's product will be the first home networking product for Macintoshes.

"It's an important step, because the Mac and Apple market has been ignored thus far in terms of home networking," she said. "Everything's been so Windows-centric."

Despite the smaller user base, home networking companies need to address the Apple market to support Mac users. "With the new iMac, Apple's experienced a resurgence, and it's an addressable market," Uppal said.

Apple executives have not expressed much interest in the home networking market in the past, but Uppal believes Apple will take a good long look at the niche. "They have never said much publicly about home networking, but I'm sure they're considering it with the attention it's getting and [Apple's] renewed popularity amongst consumers. It's a good time to step in," she said.

3Com and Microsoft have partnered together to build home networking products, joining a growing list of companies making the homeward push. While 3Com and Microsoft executives have said they would consider Mac products in the future, they say Windows products are their No. 1 priority.

Mac users historically had several ways to network their computers. Users connected their PCs by using the AppleTalk language with Ethernet cards and Ethernet crossover cables. Another way was using LocalTalk, Apple's built-in networking standard, with standard serial cables strung between two Macs.

The new generation of home networking products, however, would eliminate the need for stringing wires throughout their home. Consumers can network their computers in different rooms by plugging them into already installed phone lines.

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