This morning, Microsoft announced the launch of Microsoft Broadband Networking--the company's long-awaited broadband home-networking hardware line designed to let consumers quickly and easily share broadband Internet connections and create wired or wireless home networks. The line includes an array of products, such as wired and wireless base stations, USB network adapters, PC-card-based notebook adapters, a 5-port switch, and a PCI-based wired Ethernet adapter. The company is also selling two kits--the Wireless Desktop Kit and the Wireless Laptop kit--that combine wireless base stations with appropriate wireless networking adapters to create a complete wireless home-network solution.
A simple, consistent software setup differentiates the new Microsoft products from other vendors' hardware. "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."
In addition to simple setup, the Broadband Networking products also provide relatively secure default settings. The product line features technologies such as the Wired Equivalency Privacy (WEP) standard, a built-in hardware firewall on the base stations, and support for Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), which Microsoft says keeps intruders out and lets users play multiplayer games and conduct video and voice conversations over the Internet from any networked PC in the house.
I've been working with the final versions of the Microsoft Broadband Networking hardware for about a month now. I'll post a complete review of the product line on the SuperSite for Windows later today.