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Apple equips iMac with next-gen Wi-Fi?

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Do Apple's latest iMacs ship with an 802.11n Wi-Fi card? Photos of the Core 2 Duo-based all-in-one consumer computer certainly imply as much, but users will have to install and run Windows Vista to see it for themselves.

That's what a MacRumors.com forum-poster did, and sent the site a photo of Vista's Device Manager showing the presence of a Broadcom 802.11n network adaptor on the iMac's PCI bus.

It's not clear whether the card - assuming it's not a hoax, of course - operates at 802.11n speeds under Vista. Apple certainly doesn't advertise the iMac's Wi-Fi add-in as such. It states the machine has an AirPort Extreme card supporting the 802.11g standard.

802.11n, which boosts 802.11g's raw maximum speed from 54Mbps to 540Mbps, isn't now expected to be ratified as a standard until 2008. That said, the Wi-Fi Alliance has said it will begin certifying 802.11n product interoperability in March 2007, even though it normally shies away from kit based on draft, pre-standard versions of Wi-Fi. Presumably it senses pent up demand for the next-generation wireless technology.

That may well be why Apple's getting in early, equipping new machines with the faster technology in preparation for turning it on with a firmware update once its kit gets the Wi-Fi Alliance's thumbs up or it decides to unveil 'AirPort Extreme 2' in its own good time. ®

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