Apple Plugs Into 802.11g

Apple Computer is bringing the next generation of
Wi-Fi to the home.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker unveiled its AirPort Express,
the company’s first 802.11g mobile base station that can be plugged directly
into the wall for wireless Internet connections, USB printing, or streaming
content through a network.

Available to Mac and PC users starting in July for $129, the 6-ounce hub
also features analog and digital audio outputs that can be connected to a
home stereo, analog speakers or digital 5.1 surround sound systems.
The device also comes with Apple’s new AirTunes music networking software so
users can stream their iTunes music collection to any room in the house.

The device lets both Mac and PC users share a single DSL or cable
broadband account with up to 10 simultaneous users and a single USB printer
with multiple users. Apple said its AirPort Express also safeguards the data
with support for Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), 128-bit encryption and a
built-in firewall.

As for coverage, AirPort Express provides a range of up to 150 feet, and
multiple AirPort Express base stations can be bridged together to send music
to extended areas. Apple said AirTunes music is also encoded to protect it
from theft while streaming across the wireless music network and uses
Apple’s lossless compression technology to insure no loss of sound quality.
The company said AirTunes requires iTunes 4.6, which is expected to be
available later this week as a free download.

“AirPort Express isn’t just the world’s first mobile 802.11g base
station — with the addition of AirTunes users can now play their iTunes
music on any stereo in their home — all without wires,” Apple CEO Steve
Jobs said in a statement. “This innovative Apple product will appeal to both
notebook users who want wireless freedom in their hotel rooms and to music
lovers who want to listen to their iTunes music library on a stereo located
anywhere in their home.”

As a wireless technology, 802.11g is the hottest thing around. More
comprehensive than standard 802.11b, the .11g standard incorporates.11b’s
Complementary Code Keying (CCK) to give it bit transfer rates of 5.5 and
11Mbps in the 2.4Ghz band. In addition, 802.11g adopts 802.11a’s Orthogonal
Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) for 54Mbps speeds but in the 2.4Ghz
range.

According to IDC, 802.11g products accounted for about 20 percent of WLAN
shipments in the first quarter of 2003.

Apple’s new product crosses over into both Cisco’s
and Creative Lab’s space, but does a much better job at addressing the
consumer’s needs, according to Rob Enderle, Enderle Group president and
principle analyst.

“I think this is another sign that Apple is becoming more of a
cross-platform accessories vendor,” Enderle, told internetnews.com.
“I’ve always been convinced that if Apple applied its strengths to the
general PC market they could clean up, the iPod demonstrated this
opportunity, and this new offering (assuming it works as advertised) should
further showcase that. I think we are truly seeing the emergence of a new
Apple, one that has less and less to do with Apple PCs and more and more to
do with the Apple experience on whatever platform you chose.”

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