Microsoft launches home WLAN hardware line

Microsoft Corp. this week launched its much-anticipated line of home wireless LAN networking products, offering built-in setup software and vital security features turned on — but with above-market prices.

Lisa Brummel, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Home Products division, speaking here at the annual IDG Executive Forum DemoMobile conference, said the built-in Setup Wizard will make it easy for home users to automatically set up the company’s wireless Broadband Networking.

Microsoft will also ship its industry-standard 802.11b wireless LAN access points and PC adapter cards with built-in Wired Equivalent Privacy turned on, the first major manufacture to defy the industry standard to ship WLAN products with the security default turned off — a practice that invites sniffing and hacking, analysts have long noted.

Prices for the new Microsoft WLAN products come in on the high side, with the company setting a suggested price of US$219.95 for an access point bundled with a notebook adapter card. By comparison, online shoppers can purchase the same hardware from D-Link Systems Inc. in Irvine, Calif., for as little as $169.

Jeff Kagan, an Atlanta-based wireless analyst, said Microsoft has developed its own line of WLAN gear as part of a strategy to “own the home.” He said Microsoft plans to use the WLAN systems to connect a wide range of home electronics products, including televisions and stereos, all managed by Microsoft software over a Microsoft WLAN network.

Kagan said Microsoft’s WLAN hardware would give a boost to an already superhearted market. Gartner Dataquest estimates that worldwide WLAN shipments will total 15.5 million units this year and will almost double to 26.5 million units in 2003. WLAN hardware revenues are projected to hit $2.8 billion in 2003, up from $2.1 billion this year.