Microsoft is to use the Wi-Fi standard (802.11g) used in Apple's AirPort Extreme – adopted by Apple in January 2003.

Microsoft has built 802.11g-based wireless networking in a raft of new wireless LAN line products. These include an 802.11g access point with a four-port Ethernet switch, a Wireless Base Station MN-700, and wireless cards for portable computers and desktops, a Wireless Notebook Adapter MN-720, and Wireless PCI Adapter MN-730.

The company has also introduced an adaptor for the Xbox game console, the Xbox Wireless Adapter MN-740. This 802.11g adapter allows gamers to make their Xbox part of a wireless network, removing the need to run cables to the game console for the Xbox Live online gaming service, Microsoft said.

The 802.11g technology supports transmission speeds up to 54Mbps (bits per second), much faster than the 11Mbps supported by the popular 802.11b standard. Both operate in the 2.4GHz frequency, allowing 802.11b cards to work with an 802.11g access point.

Apple sets the trend Apple was the first major manufacturer to introduce 802.11g support in January this year. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the company chose 802.11g for its faster data-transfer and backward compatibility. At the time industry watchers voiced concernat Apple's support of an unratified standard.

The company stood by its prognosis that 802.11g would emerge as the industry standard, in preference to the 802.11a standard, which is not backward compatible, offers 54Mbps transfer speeds over shorter distances than 'g', and requires new Base Stations to be installed.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, following successful interoperability testing, finally put its stamp of approval on the first batch of products based on the new 802.11g wireless Internet standard in July.

Fast-changing wireless market When Microsoft entered the WLAN fray with 802.11b-based products last September, it rapidly won market share – claiming the number-two position in US retail sales in terms of revenue and units sold in December 2002. However, as competitors launched 802.11g products, Microsoft saw its market-share drop.

According to Microsoft product manager Todd Greenberg: "Microsoft chose to wait for interoperability certification to launch its 802.11g products and Wi-Fi certification for the new Microsoft 802.11g products was completed last month."

The new products, available only in the US and Canada, are to help Microsoft win back the market share it lost, said Greenberg.