3Com presses into future markets

3Com Corp. unveiled Monday a suite of Bluetooth wireless networking products due early next year as part of a series of announcements.

According to one analyst, the full suite of products will help firmly position 3Com after months of transitioning.

“It was really good for [3Com] to come out with a breadth of products, since it has been awhile since we’ve seen anything out of them,” said analyst Martha Young, research director at Enterprise Management Associates, in Boulder, Colo. “The products span a wide variety of areas and this sends a solid message to the IT community that they are strong and focused on future markets, like VOIP [voice over IP] and wireless.”

With a range of 10 metres operating in the 2.4GHz frequency, Bluetooth technology is intended to connect a variety of devices within a personal area network. 3Com’s new set of Bluetooth devices is to include wireless LAN access points, USB adapters, and PC cards to work in complement to the company’s AirConnect wireless LAN systems. 3Com has yet to determine specific pricing or the name of the suite.

Wireless networking will be a growing part of the company’s efforts, said Jeff Graham, 3Com’s senior vice-president of commercial and consumer business lines.

“Wireless is a big investment area for us,” Graham said. “Price has to be driven down with wireless products, such as Bluetooth devices, and that will happen with volume. Eventually, Bluetooth will be so pervasive in phones and devices you have to embrace it.”

Targeting small and midsize business environments, as well remote and branch office locations within larger enterprises, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based networking player introduced a new line of SuperStack switches as well as devices designed to boost Web performance and security.

The SuperStack 3 Switch 4900 offers Layer 3 and Gigabit Ethernet speed switching over copper wiring or fiber. Priced a little less than 400 dollars per port, the 4900 switch is designed to provide companies an affordable transition to Gigabit Ethernet, according to 3Com officials.

In addition, the company introduced the SuperStack 3 Switch 3300 line, which is six models of stackable 10/100/1000Mbps switches, as well as enhancements to its NBX Communications System IP PBX.

Monday’s announcements also marked 3Com’s entry into the market for Web enhancement devices with the SuperStack 3 Web Cache, Web Content Switch, and Internet Firewall. The devices are designed to improve Web performance and security while being easy to use and install, officials said.

Devices that speed Web transactions are becoming a cornerstone of network environments, according to Young.

As businesses move toward business-to-business and MSP [managed service provider] markets, Web-enabling products are becoming a vital piece of network architecture, Young said. “The whole digital economy is hinged on the speed of bits flying around. Web caching and content [switching] components that expedite [traffic] are very important,” she said.