Toshiba unwraps wireless gear for home, offices

Wireless computing is taking center stage this week in New York at TECHXNY, and Toshiba Corp. will be in the thick of it with several announcements of new hardware and software that help connect home and business users wirelessly to the Internet.

Toshiba Computer Systems Group announced a two-year deal with Ascendent Telecommunications Inc. to develop a mobile communications platform for Toshiba notebook PCs and PDAs (personal digital assistants) that will link enterprise computer users to their corporate phone system, the company said Monday.

Called MobilityConnect, the system would allow users to access and manage incoming calls received through their corporate PBX (private branch exchange) through an interface on their notebook PC or PDA. Based on Ascendent's WirelessConnect technology, the system to be offered by Toshiba will allow multiple wireless devices to be linked to the corporate PBX, extending certain telephony functions to mobile workers.

The initial contract is worth US$8.25 million for product development and distribution of Ascendent's WirelessConnect platform, Ascendent said. Toshiba Computer Systems Group is a division of Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.

TECHXNY will also play host to a preview of the Toshiba Mobility Communications System, a future technology that should allow users to stay connected to the Internet as they roam across various 802.11b and 3G wireless networks, Toshiba said. The system is slated for launch in the second quarter of 2003.

A similar wireless roaming system for business users, called Seamless Office, was detailed Monday at the show. It enables wireless Toshiba notebooks and PDAs to roam throughout a corporate network while connected to the Internet using 802.11b.

Toshiba also unveiled plans to provide products that bring wireless connectivity to users at public "hot spot" locations. The Toshiba Wireless Broadband Hot Spot, which is being previewed this week at TECHXNY, is an all-in-one package of hardware and software that businesses such as hotels, coffee shops and restaurants could purchase to offer fee-based wireless broadband services at their place of business. Toshiba said it is currently working with resellers to distribute the product to business customers.

On the hardware side, Toshiba's Computer Systems Group Monday announced new servers, notebook PCs and a Pocket PC handheld computer that pack features geared toward wireless computing.

The company unveiled its Magnia Z310 wireless server, aimed at large corporate users. The 2U server works with Toshiba's new Seamless Office software, allowing workers to access the corporate network via 802.11b-enabled devices. Available immediately, the wireless server costs $1,595 for a basic configuration, Toshiba said.

It also announced the immediate availability of the Magnia SG20 Wireless Mobility Server, which it is touting as a "portable network-in-a-box." The laptop-sized Magnia SG20 is designed for use by small and medium-sized offices and other business users looking for mobile networking capability.

By adding a wireless PC card, the Magnia SG20 connects wireless-enabled devices to the Internet using 802.11b technology without the need for an external access point. The server hardware is available in single or dual hard-disk drive configurations, includes up to 60G bytes of storage and runs a version of the Linux operating system. The cost of the server starts at $1,440, Toshiba said.

For home computer users, Toshiba announced its Magnia SG20 Wireless Media Center, a wireless networking hub that can be used to interconnect a variety of devices in the home. In addition to connecting home PCs to the Internet over a wireless connection, the Media Center can link together PDAs, digital media devices and home monitoring systems.

The first in a series of planned offerings from Toshiba for the digital home, the Wireless Media Center includes a virtual private networking feature, which allows authorized users to access information on the SG20 via the Internet. The home network device is available now; pricing was not immediately available.

Toshiba also put on display its newest handheld device based on Microsoft Corp.'s Pocket PC operating system. The e740 features built-in support for 802.11b and an optional attachment to support Bluetooth. The Toshiba Pocket PC e740 is available immediately for $599, Toshiba said.

Finally, the company said it has enhanced two lines of high-performance notebook PCs -- the Satellite Pro 6100 Series and Tecra 9100 Series -- by adding built-in support for 802.11b and Bluetooth. The systems are due to be available at the end of June, the company said.

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