Apple confirms third-party cards work with AirPort 3.1

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The ability for third party IEEE 802.11g cards to work in Macs equipped with AirPort 3.1 drivers was a deliberate engineering decision on Apple's part, and it's something that works with other third-party 802.11g products as well. MacCentral spoke to Apple's vice president of hardware product marketing to find out more.

AirPort 3.1 is the most recent update to Apple's AirPort drivers. When the driver update was posted last week, the big change was ostensibly compliance with the final IEEE 802.11g specification, published only a week before.

IEEE 802.11g -- known to Mac users as AirPort Extreme -- is a 54Mbps-rated wireless networking technology that's downwardly compatible with 802.11b (or the original AirPort), which operates at speeds up to 11Mbps. AirPort Extreme products first began shipping from Apple in January with the introduction of 12 and 17-inch PowerBook G4 models, and is making its way to other Apple products as well. Users of older Macs -- including Apple's popular PowerBook G4 15-inch model -- have not been able to upgrade to AirPort Extreme, because AirPort Extreme cards use a different interface than AirPort cards.

Recently, some parties have discovered that AirPort 3.1 also works with third-party 802.11g cards. On Thursday, Asante became one of the first third-party card makers to openly endorse the use of its products with Apple's AirPort drivers when the company announced that its new CardBus 802.11g card -- designed to work with laptops including Apple's PowerBook G4 -- functioned with AirPort 3.1 drivers.

Apple vice president of hardware product marketing Greg Joswiak told MacCentral that he doesn't think Asante will be the last 802.11g product vendor to reach out to Mac customers.

"We did build support for third parties into AirPort 3.1," Joswiak confirmed. Joswiak explained that the decision was made to help users of older Macs upgrade to 802.11g -- a frequent request of Mac users since AirPort Extreme was introduced six months ago.

Joswiak said that Apple isn't qualifying third party 802.11g cards for use with AirPort 3.1, and doesn't have a compatibility list of which products work with the drivers. Joswiak simply offered, "If the card is designed correctly, it should work correctly."

Apple expects that many third-party companies will fall in line and do their own testing to make sure AirPort 3.1 works with their products, so the best thing to do for now is to drop the company whose products you want to use a line and see if they've done any compatibility testing themselves.

This story, "Apple confirms third-party cards work with AirPort 3.1" was originally published by PCWorld.

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