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RealTime IT News

Home Networking for Dummies?

With business seemingly rolling along per usual despite being acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co. in a blockbuster Labor Day deal, Compaq Computer Corp. unveiled a suite of iPAQ products that make setting a network up in the home or small office less messy.

The eight tools -- an array of adapters, PC cards and switches billed under the title iPAQ Networking -- were designed for those for whom the concept of hooking up multiple computers, devices and peripherals (and making sure they are properly Web-enabled), is challenging or foreign. The products support such standards as 802.11b wireless, HomePNA 2.0 phoneline (HPNA) and 10/100 Fast Ethernet on PCs loaded with Windows 98 or higher, including XP upon its October 25 release.

Compaq's strategy to appeal to the home-based, or small office worker is steeped in the notion that more and more consumers already have or will eventually have multiple PCs, with 23.4 million homes expected to have more than one computer by 2003, according to market research firm IDC.

Running parallel to this number is the notion that the amount of consumers who will shell out for broadband access will hit 40 percent by the same year, according to IDC, and it makes for an attractive target for firms interested in connecting people in the home, such as Compaq and struggling 3Com Corp.

Next to having Internet and highly technical capabilities approaching the corporate office level, Compaq believes some users want to network at home solely for entertainment purposes, namely, online gaming and digital music sharing purposes.

David Albritton, senior manager of public relations for Compaq's Access Business Group, told InternetNews.com that the iPAQ Networking initiative is a follow-up to a release from a year ago -- the iPAQ Connection Point CP-1, a residential gateway based on the HomeRF wireless standard that allowed users to bridge multiple networking technologies (Ethernet, HomeRF, HPNA & dial up). That product came equipped with Watchguard Technologies' firewall capabilities for security.

Albritton stressed that iPAQ Networking was designed for the average user -- "not the tech-savvy Computer Science major who really understands networking and can put this stuff together in his sleep."

Looming largest among the devices is the iPAQ Connection Point CP-2W Wireless Broadband Gateway, which for $299 comes cable/DSL-ready and integrates 10/100 Fast Ethernet and 802.11b wireless networks. It boasts a range of up to 300 feet at speeds up to 11Mbps and a built-in, four-port 10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet auto sensing switch that allows up to four PCs to operate on the network without an additional hub.

The remaining products include three adapters, priced at $39.99 (Ethernet), $79.99 (phoneline) and $139.99 (wireless), three PC cards (Ethernet PCI card, $24.99 and Ethernet PC card, $49.99, Wireless PC card, $129.99) and an Ethernet Auto Sensing Switch, enabling connection speeds up to 100Mbps), for $59.99

In addition to desktops and notebooks, these tools enable connectivity for the iPAQ Pocket PC through wireless networking and the iPAQ Music Center through phoneline networking.

Compaq is also offering do-it-yourself networking advice here. The site allows users tell it their hardware and software specifications and a list of products is suggested to assist in the purchasing decision.



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