3Com Corp. Monday unveiled several new wireless networking products for small business customers who need certain enterprise-level features but cant afford enterprise-level prices.
"The way we position ourselves is to deliver enterprise-class products to SMB," said Neil Kaufman, senior director of the small business product line at 3Com, in Santa Clara, Calif.
Rolling out throughout the fall, the new products include a wireless print server, a travel access router, a high-speed PC Card adapter, and two new access points.
The Wireless 11g Secure Travel Router, which is roughly the size of a PDA, is designed for business travelers who want to connect to an Ethernet port in a hotel or conference room without wires.
"Sounds like a good idea, coming from someone who has on occasion slept with her laptop," said Linda Ladner, director of data operations at FiServ CSW Inc., a real estate analysis firm in Cambridge, Mass. "But it needs to be dummy-proof. Traveling salespeople and executives have a hard enough time with their laptops. Our IS group has spent a lot of time talking people through their connection troubles when they are on the road."
The router supports up to 16 users with both WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and the more secure WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) protocols. It also includes a firewall. Potential customers said such security is key, especially in a hotel.
"When you browse available wireless networks in a hotel room, you find about 50," said Aaron Rosenbaum, principal at Ambleside Logic Inc., a residential systems integrator in Burlingame, Calif., who beta tested the router on a business trip earlier this month. "I wouldnt have felt comfortable at all using a travel router unless it had a decent firewall in it."
The router is available immediately for $89.99.
The Wireless 11g Print Server connects a printer to an 802.11g WLAN via a USB port. The card-deck-sized device also supports WPA, besting previous models that only supported WEP. Due immediately, it costs $120.
3Com also is launching a new 802.11g PC Card with 3Coms patented "xJack" retractable antenna. It supports Atheros Communication Inc.s 108M-bps Turbo Mode and 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard.) It costs about $10 more than the fixed-antenna model, which the company will keep selling.
3Coms new 802.11g USB adapter with a swiveling, hinged antenna costs $74, compared with the current fixed antenna model, which costs around $59.
In November 3Com will be launching two new access points: one for 802.11g networks, and one that supports 802.11a and 802.11g concurrently. They will best current models by supporting power over Ethernet and AES. They also feature removable antennas.
3Com will lower the price of its current 802.11a and 802.11g access points when the new ones hit the market, officials said. But this doesnt mean the lesser products will be phased out. The company intends to keep selling the low-end models, officials said, even though they dont differ much from competitors products. 3Com has customers who are most interested in cost savings—namely service providers who provide hardware packages to home users, officials said.
"Youll tell them that you can get something better for a little bit more, and they dont care," Kaufman said.
Meanwhile, Cisco Systems Inc. has a new program aimed at migrating customers from its entry-level Linksys line of products to its higher-end enterprise products. Through a rebate directly to the end user, the Linksys to Cisco Trade-up Program pays up to 100 percent cash back for Linksys products when customers trade up, said officials at Cisco in San Jose, Calif. The program includes trading in Linksys line of consumer-level access points for Ciscos popular line of Aironet 1100 and 1200 access points.