Sierra Wireless to the Rescue - Wireless Broadband for Today's Macs

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Aug
30

By: switchtoamac at: 2:18 PM on August 30, 2006 | Comments (0)

Let's face it, Mac users have historically been accustomed to the back burner when it comes to hardware and software.  This is especially true for today's current wireless broadband providers such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint in the United States.  Yes, the two carriers do offer cards for Mac users but the selection and options are not at par with PC users.  This problem was elevated after Apple released the MacBook Pro portable.

Apple adopted the ExpressCard/34 standard in January 2006 when it released the MacBook Pro.  In contrast to the old PCMCIA technology, ExpressCard/34 provides a smaller, faster expansion interface.  The only drawback as of this writing is that there are not many wireless broadband options for portable/notebook owners who have the ExpressCard slot in their systems on both the Mac and the PC.

Enter Sierra Wireless, the Vancouver, Canada based manufacturer of the award-winning AirCard® wireless PC card line.  Understanding the need and demand from today's users, Sierra Wireless has made two very important product announcements regarding broadband data cards for today's portable users.

597E

On Monday August 28, 2006 the company announced it's entry into the ExpressCard product line by providing information about the AirCard® 597E wireless wide area network card for EV-DO Revision A networks.  Current MacBook Pro owners will be happy to know that the AirCard 597E is expected to begin shipping in the first quarter of 2007 while ExpressCard models for HSDPA networks will be released later in 2007.  According to Sierra Wireless, the card will offer additional features such as Assisted GPS (aGPS) location based services, fixed antenna design, and an external antenna jack for flexibility and improved reception.  The AirCard 597E will be an ExpressCard/34 form factor card with compatibility with both ExpressCard 34 and ExpressCard 54 slots in today's new portable and notebook computers.  Sierra Wireless also announced that an adapter will be available for the 597E to allow customers without an ExpressCard slot to use the card in Type II PCMCIA card slots.  The AirCard 597E is capable of peak downloads at 3.1 Mbps and uploads at 1.8 Mbps on a Revision A network.  As of this posting, the Sierra Wireless Web site had not been updated with regards to the AirCard 597E.

AirCard USB Wireless Modems

On Wednesday August 30, 2006 the company announced the 595U AirCard USB Wireless Modems  for EV-DO Revision A and HSDPA networks.  The flexibility offered by the AirCard USB modem is that it allows users to directly plug the device into a USB port of both portable and desktop systems, or make the connection via a docking cradle.  This versatile solution is a benefit to Macbook Pro owners and users of other systems who do not have a PCMCIA card slot.  It also allows users a cost savings as a single wireless data service can be shared between multiple computers.  The AirCard 595U for EV-DO Revision A networks is slated to begin shipments in the fourth quarter of 2006 while the AirCard 875U for HSDPA networks will be released in the first quarter of 2007.  The AirCard 595U is capable of peak downloads at 3.1 Mbps and uploads at 1.8 Mbps on a Revision A network.  The AirCard 875U is capable of peak downloads at 3.6 Mbps on HSDPA networks and is upgradeable to support future network upgrades providing peak data rates of up to 7.2 Mbps.

Commentary

It's a well know fact that the majority of today's wireless broadband is conducted on Windows based PCs.  As far as switchers are concerned, the lack of a versatile selection of wireless broadband cards and support from service providers has prevented many from making the switch to Mac.  This is especially true ever since Apple released the MacBook Pro to replace the PowerBook as many potential switchers have decided not to purchase a MacBook Pro for the sole reason of not being able to get wireless broadband access.  Sierra Wireless' attention and commitment to providing ExpressCard/34 and USB based cards will help to expand the Mac footprint as more and more users will not have to shun the MacBook Pro due to the lack of ExpressCard/34 support on today's wireless broadband networks.  The end result is a win for current and future Mac portable owners and for the Mac user base.  As more companies build support for the Mac and Mac OS X, we'll see greater adoption and acceptance of the Mac beyond the growth currently underway.

To learn about Sierra Wireless' support for Apple PowerBook notebooks with PCMCIA slots click here.

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