SAN FRANCISCO—Amid all the hoopla surrounding the iPhone and Apple TV introduction, Apple quietly introduced Jan. 9 an updated AirPort Extreme wireless networking base station that supports the IEEE 802.11n draft specification.
Although Apple CEO Steve Jobs didnt even mention the product in his keynote speech Jan. 9 at the annual Macworld Conference and Expo here , the new AirPort Extreme product will ship in February with a price of $179. Apple has already started accepting orders for the device.
The new AirPort Extreme will be a vital component of Apples TV strategy.
Use of the 802.11n specification means the AirPort Extreme can stream data on either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz wavelengths, at transfer speeds of up to 540Mbits/sec—theoretically 10 times faster than 802.11g. This could enable streaming of HD media from a computer wirelessly to an Apple TV unit for display on a living room TV screen.
Apple also claims a wider coverage area for the new model, as well as backward compatibility with existing 802.11b and 802.11g products.
For physical connectivity, the AirPort Extreme will feature one USB 2.0 port for a printer or external hard drive (which can be shared between computers on the local network), a WAN port for a DSL or cable modem and three 10/100 LAN ports.
The new AirPort Extreme also received a makeover, moving away from the conical "flying saucer" look of previous models. The new version is a flat rectangle, mirroring the shape of the Mac Mini and the Apple TV, perhaps for stackability reasons.
Shipping with the new AirPort Extreme will be software updaters for existing Core 2 Duo-equipped Macs (certain iMacs, MacBooks, MacBook Pros and Mac Pros with AirPort Extreme cards), which will enable them to support 802.11n connectivity.
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