Sunday, August 29, 2004

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) --

Intel Corp. unveiled an update to its wireless networking technology Thursday, adding simpler software, improved security and support for a more robust, less interference-prone radio standard.

Notebooks based on the latest version of Intel's Centrino mobile technology will be able to connect to Wi-Fi networks that use the 802.11a standard as well as the more popular 802.11b and 802.11g standards, the chip-making giant said.

Though 802.11a is not widely used today, it supports more data traffic and uses a slice of the airwaves that isn't shared with microwave ovens, baby monitors and portable telephones. Users of 802.11b and 802.11g are susceptible to such interference.

Businesses are interested in having the triple capability to "future-proof" their computers and networks, said Jim Johnson, general manager of Intel's Wireless Networking Group.

Consumers who have interference problems in their homes will have a choice of switching to 802.11a in the home but could still use 802.11b and 802.11g on the road, he said.

Intel also has updated the software that controls the radio and connects Centrino-based laptops to networks. One tool includes a configuration wizard, advanced troubleshooting and automated wireless security setup.

In addition, Intel has worked with Cisco Systems Inc.'s Linksys division to develop a three-step setup process between Centrino notebooks and Linksys access points.

Notebooks configured with the updated version of Centrino are expected to be available next month from most major vendors, Johnson said.

Intel first launched its Centrino brand in March 2003 with a massive marketing campaign extolling the benefits of Wi-Fi and mobile computing. It also set up a hot spot verification program to ensure interoperability with Centrino.

Pyramid Research estimates there will be as many as 700 million Wi-Fi users by 2007.

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