Apple introduces high-speed 'Airport Extreme'

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced AirPort Extreme, the next generation of Wi-Fi wireless networking technology based on the new ultra-fast 802.11g standard, during his keynote at the Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco.

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While current AirPort base stations operate at up to 11Mbps, AirPort Extreme operates at up to 54Mbps. It's downwardly compatible with devices that use the slower standard, as well, and what's more, it costs less than its predecessor -- only US$199. AirPort Extreme Base Stations support up to 50 users, wireless bridging to extend the range beyond just one base station, and USB printer sharing to allow multiple users to wirelessly share USB printers connected directly to the base station. AirPort Extreme is also billed as the only wireless solution to support dial-up access to America Online and is also compatible with Cisco's LEAP security.

AirPort Extreme Base Stations are offered in two configurations -- a $199 "Broadband Edition" designed to support cable modems, DSL lines, and other similar connections, and a $249 Modem + Broadband Edition, which adds a 56K V.90 modem if you're still using dial-up. If you're looking to get as much distance as possible between yourself and the base station, the Modem + Broadband Edition also features a "range-extending external antenna connector."

AirPort Extreme supports Rendezvous, Apple's zero configuration networking technology. It also sports a built-in firewall and 128 bit encryption.

To get the higher speed capable with 802.11g-compliant devices, you'll need to have an AirPort Extreme Card, which will set you back $99. Here's an important issue, however: AirPort Extreme cards eschew the PCMCIA interface used by older PowerBooks in favor of a mini-PCI interface that can be found on Apple's new PowerBooks. So unless you're buying a new PowerBook, you're likely to be out of luck for now.

This story, "Apple introduces high-speed 'Airport Extreme'" was originally published by PCWorld.

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