Apple Wants You to Cut the Cord

I'm beginning to think that Steve Jobs hates cords.

First, at Macworld Expo, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) introduced the new MacBook Air, whose less-than-an-inch-thick frame shuns all but a handful of cords. Even the Air's super-sleek power supply looks chunky next to the laptop's slender frame.

Now, Apple says it will update its AirPort Express wireless router to deliver 802.11n Wi-Fi. That's remarkably cool for two reasons. First, if you haven't yet seen one, the AirPort Express plugs directly into a wall outlet. No cords required, save perhaps an Ethernet cord from your cable modem or DSL box, which makes delivering Wi-Fi to a network of Macs or PCs pretty simple.

Second, 802.11n is a disruptive technology, in that it greatly increases the range and speed by which data can be served wirelessly. Here's how authors at Wikipedia put it:

IEEE 802.11n builds on previous 802.11 standards by adding multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) and 40 MHz operation to the physical layer. MIMO uses multiple transmitter and receiver antennas to improve the system performance ... If properly implemented, 40-MHz channels can provide greater than two times the usable channel bandwidth of two 802.11 legacy channels.

That may be stretching it a bit.

Nevertheless, by rolling out 802.11n early, Apple puts pressure on networking rivals NetGear (Nasdaq: NTGR  ) and Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) to update their products, and pushes PC peers Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) to cut the cord in more functional, if not more artful, ways. Smart move.

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