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Networking

Microsoft adopts latest Wi-Fi standard

The software giant announces new gear that uses the 802.11g standard. The company had initially passed on the technology, losing market share as a result.

Microsoft announced Tuesday that it has updated its line of wireless-networking products, adding gear based on the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11g.

Starting at the end of the month, retailers will begin selling the products, which include the $109 Microsoft Wireless Base Station MN-700, the $85 Wireless Notebook Adapter MN-720, the $85 Wireless PCI Adapter MN-730 for desktop PCs, and the $179 Wireless Notebook Kit MN-820, used to connect desktops and notebooks to a network.

In October, retailers will begin selling the $139 Xbox Wireless Adapter MN-740, used to connect Xbox gaming consoles to a network.

Earlier in the year, Microsoft decided not to release products using the 802.11g specification until it was ratified as a standard by an industry group, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and products had been certified for interoperability by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The decision cost Microsoft market share after the company, which entered the Wi-Fi gear market in September, raced up the charts to become one of the leaders in shipments, according to retail-market tracker NPD Techworld.

Competitors started shipping products using the draft specification of 802.11g, despite early interoperability problems. The risk paid off for manufacturers such as Linksys, as products using 802.11g have become very popular with consumers and have taken over from products using the 802.11b standard, in terms of maintaining shipment momentum.

Wi-Fi networks let consumers wirelessly share resources, such as a broadband Internet connection, with other devices connected to the network. Networks using the 802.11g standard can transmit data at up to 54 megabits per second, while 802.11b-based networks theoretically top out at 11mbps. The average throughput speed of those networks is about half the maximum.

The IEEE finalized the 802.11g standard in June, and the Wi-Fi Alliance began approving products shortly thereafter.

Microsoft wanted to ensure that consumers of its 802.11g products wouldn't have any trouble setting up networks and using them, according to Todd Greenberg, product manager for Microsoft Broadband Networking. It wanted to stick with the ease-of-use heritage that initially made its products so popular, Greenberg said.

Microsoft's Wi-Fi gear uses chips from Broadcom and supports Wi-Fi Protected Access and Wired Equivalent Privacy specifications. It also has parental-control features.

In regard to Microsoft's Xbox, Greenberg said the company's broadband networking team worked with the gaming console's team to develop a Xbox Wireless Adapter designed to make the transition to a wireless connection easy for players.