In the coming weeks, Microsoft will unveil its second-generation Broadband Networking product line, which will feature 802.11g wireless products that run at 54Mbps, a dramatic improvement over the current line's 802.11b-based 11Mbps. In addition to the standard desktop and notebook computer wireless adapters and wireless base stations, Microsoft will also unveil an Xbox Wireless Adapter that will let gamers access online multiplayer games wirelessly for the first time. The company will also unveil a new line of PC mouse devices and keyboards.
   "Our new line of broadband networking devices will make their US debut featuring 802.11g, which is up to five times faster than 802.11b, the technology used in our original lineup that debuted in 2002," Tom Gibbons, general manager of the Hardware Group, said. "Wi-Fi technology is everywhere you look, whether over a cup of coffee at Starbucks or on the front page of the business section. In fact, latest analyst predictions indicate by the end of 2003, there will be 9.3 million Wi-Fi users worldwide, up from 2.5 million last year." Microsoft noted a Gartner study that predicts 31 million Wi-Fi users by 2007.
   In addition to the new wireless hardware, which is entering a crowded market that embraced 802.11g months ago, Microsoft also unveiled new mouse and keyboard hardware last week and will ship later this month. All the products are wireless, including the two standalone mouse devices--the Wireless Optical Mouse and Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer--and several mouse/keyboard combinations, such as the Wireless Optical Desktop Elite, Wireless Optical Desktop, Wireless Optical Desktop Pro, and Basic Wireless Optical Desktop. The new mouse devices feature interference-reducing wireless technology and dramatically better battery life than previous models--as much as 6 months, the company says. They also feature an innovative new scroll wheel, called the Tilt Wheel, which will let users scroll horizontally as well as vertically. In early 2004, the company will introduce wired versions of its new keyboards and mouse devices.