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MS kicks off home broadband wireless beta test

Including hardware - but whose?

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Microsoft seems to be poised to give away an unspecified number of home wireless networking kits as part of a beta test program kicking off in late March. Naturally though, there are a couple of catches.

According to BetaNews, which has seen a copy of the email inviting applicants for the beta test, the Microsoft Home Networking Group is proposing to test something that sounds rather like a gateway which will allow wired and wireless computers on a home network to share a broadband connection. These days this is not particularly hard to set up, such gateways are coming down to commodity prices, and Windows XP is (OK, we admit it) pretty good at figuring out what you've got, wireless and connection-wise, and how to use it.

But it's our understanding that Microsoft's interest is not so much in producing another one of those pieces of hardware it doesn't build as in trying to make installation of a home network a total no-brainer. So the beta may be mainly a usability thing, and worth watching in order to get an idea of the direction of Microsoft's thinking in the area. It'll also be interesting to see if Microsoft will be dealing with a hardware partner or a contract operation, as with Xbox.

The invitation says testers should "thoughtfully complete surveys, perform some specific tests targeted at their home configuration, and use their existing Internet applications with the beta hardware and software." They'll have to give the gear back at the end of the test, but they'll get a final version when it goes into production. More details, plus how to apply, at BetaNews.

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