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Cisco, Xircom to Build Wireless Network Adapters

Networking colossus Cisco Systems Inc. and mobile data technology expert Xircom Inc. Wednesday teamed up to cooperate in the development of wire-free network adapters.

Based on the IEEE 802.11b Wireless Ethernet standard, the two companies agreed to amplify efforts to provide mobile data solutions for Wide Area, Personal Area, and Local Area Networks.

The collaboration deal expands Cisco's flagship Aironet wireless LAN product offering, as it will include a family of industry standard network adapters to provide a complete mobile data networking solution.

Cisco and Xircom intend to jointly develop and market handheld, universal serial bus, mini peripheral component interconnect, and personal computer card adapters in both industry-standard and Xircom-unique form factors.

Larry Birenbaum, Cisco vice president and general manager for the desktop switching business unit, said its partnership with Xircom is all about developing the high-speed wireless marketplace.

"Cisco is delighted to collaborate with Xircom in developing and marketing industry-standard, wireless LAN adapters, and enabling true network mobility for organizations worldwide," Birenbaum said. "Our collective efforts will yield superior wireless solutions, and help establish high-speed wireless LAN connectivity as a must-have solution for mobile users."

For Xircom's part, its RealPort2 data technology will be used in integrated personal computer cards to provide additional flexibility that allows users to select from separate function cards and for a fully customized, cable-free solution. RealPort2 cards can be used alone or mixed and matched with other proprietary cards including Ethernet, ISDN, 56K modem, 802.11b, and wireless data.

Dirk Gates, Xircom chairman, president and chief executive officer, said the agreement allows it to develop its leadership in wired mobile data access with Cisco's leadership in the Internet infrastructure market.

"With the adoption of the IEEE 802.11b standard, the WLAN market is now a viable solution for deployment in a variety of locations and applications," Gates said.

According to research by eTForecasts, only 2 percent of the Internet users in the U.S. currently access the Internet with a Web appliance.

But in the next five years the availability of portable appliances will dramatically change the marketplace and developing adapters for existing networks is the key.

By the end of 2005, eTForecasts predicts that 55 percent of Internet users in the U.S. will access the Web through handheld devices, in addition to personal Internet access for home use.

The same report predicts that worldwide web appliances will have an even stronger impact on wireless access to the Internet. At the end of this year it's estimated that 6 percent of Internet users will access the Web through a portable device and that the market segment will grow to over 71 percent by the end of 2005.

Wireless LAN access allows users with laptop, notebook, and handheld devices to move freely within a campus or building environment while maintaining uninterrupted connections to centrally located data and the Internet.

One of the first new wireless adapters to be developed as part of the agreement between Cisco and Xircom will be Xircom's Springboard 802.11b wireless LAN module, which incorporates Cisco's Aironet technology. The adapter is tentatively scheduled for availability late this year.