Microsoft to sell home networking hardware

Microsoft plans to enter the home networking equipment market later this year with a line of consumer Wi-Fi hardware, the company announced yesterday.

Wi-Fi is another name for the 802.11b wireless standard for transmissions over a local network. Wi-Fi products, such as those Microsoft says it is developing, can facilitate sharing files, devices and an Internet connection among several PCs.

Microsoft offered few details on what it's developing, but said its technology will enable customers to quickly set up a home wireless network. Right now, home networking is confusing and hasn't spread beyond savvy early adopters, according to Microsoft, which said its goal is to simplify the process with products for everyday users.

Microsoft has for years been eyeing ways to connect consumers' devices and share information between them. In a January talk at the Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates previewed Windows XP technologies for wirelessly linking devices and turning customers' PCs into home digital control centres.

Other IT vendors, including Apple Computer and Hewlett-Packard, already offer hardware and software products for home networking.

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