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Compaq offers wireless modules on new notebooks

Compaq has introduced a new line of portable computers that feature interchangeable wireless modules, allowing users to switch...

Compaq has introduced a new line of portable computers that feature interchangeable wireless modules, allowing users to switch easily from a corporate or public-access wireless local area network (LAN) to a wide-area data network operated by a cellular telephone carrier.

The company has also rebranded its entire desktop and notebook product line as Evo. Compaq has retained the Presario brand for products aimed at the small business or home office markets and the iPaq brand for small access devices, such as Compaq's version of the pocket PC.

Compaq's new MultiPort wireless technology allows users to attach different wireless modules to a Universal Serial Bus port embedded in the outside of a notebook's cover, with the curved module lying flat once it's inserted. The antenna is embedded in the top of the notebook cover, providing a clearer shot to a wireless access point than antennas mounted on PC cards.

Ann Avery, a marketing manager at Compaq's portable product division, declined to provide specific pricing details for the new modules. However, she said the module that will allow users to connect to 802.11B wireless LANs will be "competitively priced" against PC cards, which currently retail for $179 (£125).

Avery said Compaq will also offer MultiPort modules designed for use with Bluetooth short-range wireless systems as well as cards designed to access various cellular data networks, which in the US work under a variety of incompatible protocols.

The first cellular data module that Compaq plans to offer will operate on the Global Systems for Mobile Communications standard used throughout Europe as well as by VoiceStream wireless in the US.

Tim Scannell, an analyst at Mobile Insights, called the Compaq MultiPort system "an elegant and flexible approach" that does not lock the user into one wireless system, as do notebooks from other manufacturers.

Avery said pricing on the new Evo line of notebooks starts at $1,499.

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