Long expected and finally arrived (though not on sale for a couple more weeks), Microsoft
today made public its Broadband Networking line of products. The line includes both wireless and wired components targeted at home and small office networks looking to share a high speed Internet connection.
The wireless side of the Broadband Networking line are all Intersil PRISM-based 802.11b products capable of 11Mbps. They include a Wireless Base Station router (MN-500, $149.95) with integrated 4-port switch for Internet sharing, a Wireless Notebook Adapter (MN-520, $79.95), and a Wireless USB Adapter (MN-510, $79.95). You can save $10 by buying a kit, which will include a Base Station with either the USB or PC Card adapter.
The wired end consists of 10/100Mbps Ethernet products. There’s a Base Station router (MN-100, $79.95) and a 5-Port Switch (MN-150, $39.95), plus three Network Interface Cards: USB (MN-110, $29.95), PC Card (MN-120, $39.95) and PCI (MN-130, $24.95).
Microsoft says it currently has no plans to create an Ethernet to Wireless adapter that could hook up Microsoft’s own Xbox for sharing the Internet connection.
Microsoft hopes to deliver unique ease of use with features such as a Setup Wizard which detects the ISP or modem settings to automatically configure the products. The Setup Wizard copies all the network settings to a Set-up Disk for storage and easy reinstall if needed, and can be used to transport settings to your other PCs on the network. An included utility provides access to software updates and network status.
Security is pretty standard: 128-bit Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) Encryption is there, but unlike other 802.11b-based products, 128-bit WEP is turned on as the default. Both Base Station routers include NAT firewalls, MAC address filtering, and parental controls.
End users will get 24 hours a day, 7 days a week toll-free technical support for the first two years of ownership.
Microsoft is not a complete stranger to the world of hardware — it has long offered a line of input peripherals such as keyboards, mice, joysticks, and of course, the Xbox game console. This is the company’s first foray into networking outside of its operating systems.
More information on the products can be found at the newly launched Microsoft Broadband Networking site at www.microsoft.com/broadbandnetworking. The Broadband Networking products will be sold direct from this site. They’ll also be available at major retailers including Best Buy, Amazon.com, Target, Staples, Circuit City, and CompUSA.
In October, the company will also launch an interactive “Network Guide” on the site to help customers pick the products they need before they purchase them.
Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.