Microsoft has announced a range of wireless and fixed networking products to spur adoption of broadband within the home and small office environment. Using an 802.11b Wi-Fi chipset from Intersil, Microsoft will brand wireless base stations, USB adapters and PC cards. Prices for a two-node base station and client kit start at USD 219.95.
Microsoft has focused on providing simple and cost-effective solutions which can be installed by end users unfamiliar with wireless networking technology. It will also sell standard ethernet products for connecting to fixed networks.
“The process of setting up a wireless network has simply been too complex for the people looking to share their broadband internet connection,” said Lisa Brummel, corporate vice president for the Microsoft Home Products Division. “Our primary goal in creating these products was to help enable the scenarios that people see as important to their lives. This means giving users the freedom they need to access their information at any time and on any device.”
Microsoft’s presence in this market will help drive consumer adoption of wireless networking technology in the home. It has the marketing power and brand affinity to convince users that this is essential technology, without which they will be excluded from the digital revolution.
But why does Microsoft feel the need to risk a low margin venture such as selling re-branded hardware? This is part of a wider strategy within the Microsoft group to secure the place of its operating platforms at the heart of the digital home. With a massive cash pile and no sign yet of returning this money to its shareholders, Microsoft can afford to pursue broad initiatives which do not necessarily meet with outstanding commercial success in themselves, but catalyse the next era of pervasive computing.
This, of course, will have little meaning for the average, mildly techno-phobic user Microsoft will be targeting with its new hardware products. They will most likely be impressed by competitive prices, the security of the Microsoft brand and the easy installation process.
Originally published by PMN Mobile Industry Intelligence, the subscription-based analysis and insight platform founded by Marek Pawlowski.