Intel Corp. (San Francisco, CA, U.S.) is building into a forthcoming microchip an ability to let desktop computers act as a hub in home and office wireless networks, taking aim at the market for stand-alone wireless access points.
While the move could simplify the process of setting up the networks, which use a popular networking technology known as Wi-Fi, it could be bad news for companies such as Cisco and Netgear Inc., which sell wireless routers used in such networks for between U.S. $75 and $150 each, analysts said.
Intel President and CIO Paul Otellini has disclosed plans to include the capability of a wireless access point in a forthcoming chipset. The chipset is the lesser-known, but critically important, assistant to the microprocessor, the brain of a computer.
Today, consumers and businesses create Internet hot spots, or areas where the Web can be accessed wirelessly and at high speeds, by connecting a wireless access point to a high speed Internet connection from a cable or DSL line. Wireless access points broadcast signals as far as 150 ft away.
When Intel chipset, which is code-named Grantsdale, is released in the first half of next year, buyers of high-end computers using Intel's Pentium 4 chips will no longer need to install a separate wireless access point.
The chipset, however, will not include an actual Wi-Fi radio, so users will still need a wireless add-on card. Intel has said it eventually intends build a Wi-Fi radio into its microprocessors.
Intel's Grantsdale project broadens the company's efforts to promote Wi-Fi, the leading wireless standard for computers. Intel's Centrino chips for mobile computers, which include a low-power microprocessor and a Wi-Fi chip, have generated $2 billion in revenue in their first year and made the company the new, dominant supplier of Wi-Fi chips, Otellini said.
Intel's foray into promoting Wi-Fi is credited with boosting sales of wireless networking products offered by a range of wireless equipment makers.
Sales of low-end access points could dip if PC owners rely on the capabilities of their Intel-powered desktop computers, said Ken Furer, a semiconductor analyst for IDC who researches the Wi-Fi market.
But Intel's plan, he added, might break with a trend in wireless Internet access toward more advanced stand-alone wireless access points known as gateways, which bundle a cable or DSL modem with a wireless router. (Reuters)
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