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Monday, January 08, 2007, 05:00 pm PT (08:00 pm ET)

Macworld: Site slip-up hints at 802.11n Airport Extreme

A Macworld San Francisco course website indicates that Apple may use the trade show to introduce its own take on the 802.11n wireless standard.

While describing an Advanced Wireless session to be presented tomorrow by Volcano Wireless' Bill Wieckling, Macworld today may have revealed a plan by the Cupertino-based Mac maker to formally introduce a draft edition of the next-generation Wi-Fi format to its computer and networking lines, potentially splitting its wireless offerings into two models.

"Wireless networking is about to undergo major changes, with 802.11n, or Airport Extreme X2 and X4," the introduction to the session reads.

The session article continues by referring to technologies that are clearly unique to the new networking protocol, including a theoretical maximum 600 Mbps connection speed, MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) antennas, and the increased connection range and reliability inherent to the updated Wi-Fi version.

No explanation is provided for the apparent division between Airport Extreme products, though the X2 and X4 designations may refer to different speed gradations determined by the chipset built into a given Mac or Airport router.

Apple recently drew attention to its potential wireless plans by shifting away from its longstanding 802.11g Airport Extreme hardware. The Mac maker quietly began including draft 802.11n wireless chipsets with its computer line in Fall of last year, starting with September's iMac refresh and coming to light with the advent of similarly upgraded MacBook and MacBook Pro portables.

Many have also noted the conspicuous absence of specific a specific Wi-Fi format in Steve Jobs' preview of the hotly-anticipated iTV media hub, in which the Apple executive only referred to the device as supporting "802.11."

The company also suffered from a suspiciously-timed Airport router shortage that deprived resellers of Airport Express and Airport Extreme base stations as late as December, prompting speculation that the existing line would be phased out in favor of 802.11n-equipped hardware.