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Gateway expands into networking realm

Gateway is introducing its first wireless access points and enterprise switching products, hoping a combo of built-in features and low price points will appeal to the low-end enterprise market.

Gateway Inc. will plunge deeper into the business market next week with the release of its first enterprise switches and access points, part of the company's larger effort to become an end-to-end supplier of technology for large companies.

The Poway, Calif.-based vendor, known primarily for its long-standing consumer PC business and for its recent entry into the home electronics market, is introducing the Gateway 7000 Series wireless access points along with three switch families: The 7200 Series offers unmanaged, wire-speed switching for 10/100 Mbps network clients. The 7400 Series is similar but works at Gigabit Ethernet speed. And the 7600 Series is a set of managed 10/100 Mbps appliances that regulate network traffic and eliminate server bottlenecks.

The access points are powered by an Intel IPX422 processor and offer 802.11g alone, or a combination of 802.11a and 802.11g. They also feature two LAN ports, enabling a company to use the same access point for not only its secure, internal network, but also to broadcast a second guest network to provide visitors with Internet connectivity.

The unmanaged switches offer auto-switching and plug-and-play functionality, and they can be deployed on the desktop or rackmounted. The line of managed switches will add console, telnet, Web browser and remote monitoring Simple Network Management Protocol interface. Additionally, in the coming weeks, Gateway will release its 7800 Series, which will offer Gigabit Ethernet capabilities in a managed device.

Gateway spokesman Ted Ladd said that, with this announcement, Gateway is looking to establish itself as a low-cost alternative to all-in-one vendors like Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. by providing all the technology elements that a large organization needs, from PCs and networking gear to storage and servers.

"Before, we would go into a company and bid only on certain business contracts. Now, we can go in and bid on everything," Ladd said.

Despite the company's consumer-friendly image, it has also established a profitable enterprise business. In fact, Ladd said that 50% of the company's $4 billion in revenue last year was derived from sales to enterprises.

Chad McDonald, a senior product manager with Gateway, said that the company is looking to serve the low end of the business market. He said that smaller companies often want enterprise-class networking gear, but they either can't afford to invest thousands of dollars for just a few access points, or they don't have the IT staff in place to support enterprise products.

Gateway is working to attract those customers through aggressive pricing and robust features. For instance, the company's low-end access point offers Wireless Distribution System (WDS) bridging and repeating, AES encryption and an embedded RADIUS server. To boot, it is priced at $299, which is nearly $100 less than Dell's TrueMobile 1170, and reportedly $150 less than Cisco Systems Inc.'s Aironet 1100.

Maximilian Flisi, a research analyst with International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., said that Gateway is making a smart move by undercutting competitors on pricing but that the plethora of built-in features may not be as attractive to potential customers.

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"I think it's always good to have [built-in features], but as to whether they're being used by the majority of the people who get them is a question," Flisi said.

Flisi said the products will have the biggest effect on Gateway's existing customers, because the company will be able to expand its presence in those accounts without relying on vendor partnerships. He said the company may have trouble targeting enterprise accounts, especially in the switching arena, because it's a mature market with a number of established players.

Gateway will make the products available Tuesday. The low-end 7200 Series products start at $79, while the high-end 7600 Series offerings top out at $799.

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