Following its pioneering of Wi-Fi wireless networking technology, Apple announced the next generation of 802.11 products during CEO Steve Jobs?s keynote speech at Macworld Expo San Francisco 2003.

AirPort Extreme is based on the fast 802.11g standard. With speeds up to 54Mbps, Apple claims that AirPort Extreme delivers almost five times the 11Mbps data rate of today?s 802.11b-based products (such as the original AirPort, of which Apple has shipped over two million), yet is fully compatible with the older devices. The actual speed will vary based on range, connection rate and other factors.

?Apple was the first computer company to ship products based on 802.11b when it launched AirPort in 1999, kick-starting the entire Wi-Fi wireless revolution,? said Jobs. ?Today we?re doing it again by launching AirPort Extreme.?

Jobs slammed the earlier 802.11a standard that followed 802.11b as ?doomed to failure? as it was incompatible with 802.11b devices.

?802.11g is going to be the next industry standard?, stated Jobs to applause from the Wi-Fi-savvy keynote audience.

Extreme solution The new £149 AirPort Extreme Base Station offers 54Mbps data rates for up to 50 users, wireless bridging to extend the range beyond just one base station, and USB printer sharing to allow multiple users to wirelessly share USB printers connected directly to the base station. Wireless printing over USB requires Mac OS X v10.2.3 or later and a compatible printer.

The AirPort Extreme Base Station with a built-in 56K V.90 hardware modem and additional port for connecting a range-extending antenna has a suggested retail price of £189.

The new smaller and faster AirPort Extreme Card ? available for £79 ? is designed specifically for the internal card slot found in Apple?s new PowerBook G4 notebooks also announced at Macworld Expo.

Both of the AirPort Extreme Base Stations offer new features such as a USB port for low-cost wireless USB printer sharing and a second 10/100BASE-T Ethernet port for connections to fast LANs and DSL or cable modems. Education campuses and other institutions can take advantage of new features such as a software placement utility for optimal base-station location, a software power control that lets administrators adjust the wireless network range to fit a specific area and optional range-extending omni-directional and directional antennas.

A new wireless bridging feature lets customers extend the range of a wired network by allowing one AirPort Extreme Base Station on a LAN to ?bridge? with up to four additional AirPort Extreme Base Stations, eliminating the need to pull additional cables underground and into buildings.

For all the news and pictures from Macworld Expo San Francisco 2003, click here.