Apple Secretly Implementing 802.11n Wireless Standard

New model Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros and iMacs appear to be the first Macs to deploy the new wireless 802.11n standard. While the machines recognise the wireless card as only being an 802.11g device, MacRumors reckons the cards are actually built to support the standard.

802.11n hasn't yet been ratified, but it appears likely it will be agreed soon, leading many manufacturers to begin to make products that implement the current pre-ratified version of it. With Apple set to launch its iTV product next year, a device which wirelessly streams music and video content from Macs to a TV set, it makes sense for the company to begin moving its architectures to the new standard.

802.11n offers numerous advantages over the current 802.11g standard - most importantly, it enables you to stream video wirelessly without suffering dropped frames. It also lets you surf the web and send email without impacting the performance of the streamed asset. According to the report, the wireless card inside MacBook Pros has been identified as using an Atheros AR5008 802.11n chipset. The new iMacs use a similar chipset, this time from Broadcom.

News source: Macworld UK

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With Apple set to launch its iTV product next year, a device which wirelessly streams music and video content from Macs to a TV set, it makes sense for the company to begin moving its architectures to the new standard.

Actually, it works with Windows, too.

Quote - Krankerz said @ #12

Actually, it works with Windows, too.


Because Windows users will use "iTV" as opposed to the already established, and likely superior Windows Media Center and it's Extender range (including the popular XBOX 360)? I don't think they need to bother to make that rubbish work on Windows.

Already established? That's funny. It's established because its shipped on stock Dells without Tuner cards that end up in businesses?

Likely superior? In what way? Most Media PCs are standard boxes with fans and bulk?

The XBox is owned by less than 20 million folks; extenders less so.

This box is smaller than a mini, will probably sport 802.11n before any mainstream products, and we don't know it's feature set. I bet Apple sells millions in year one and, yes, many will go to Windows users.

Just because you're a zealot that doesn't mean 400 million Windows users are.

...This is a mistake how? The worst that can happen is the cards won't be n-compatible. Just like every other computer sold these days. However, there's a good chance that these cards will be suitable for the final n standard, and that means that there'll be a much larger install base that can connect to the n networks.

As much as I dislike Apple, there are some things that they're good about and this is exactly the type of thing. This is smart. Of course, stuff like this only increases the cost of Apple notebooks, but they've proven that there are plenty of people who will buy their products regardless of cost.

why cant they just wait for ratified n standard, instead of using draft-n that maybe in a future would cause compatibility issues.

My guess is it is being done this way by force, not by Apple's choice.

Apple only occupies a small percentage of hardware sales and with the large PC OEMs and retail market shifting to Pre-N (even without the ratification) i think the card makers are starting to make Pre-N only cards. As a result, Apple is forced to buy Pre-N cards and are choosing not to write/release drivers for the Pre-N portion. Unless they get a lot of pressure i doubt they will ever support Pre-N. As N curently is not inpororable. They will support ratified N, of course.

What compatibility issues? Apple doesn't have to care about supporting everyone else's devices. They just need to worry about their own. Also, this occurred with 802.11a as well... They shipped pre-finalization and they were able to properly update. I'm sure Apple simply feels the pre-finalization hardware is close enough that any changes can be accomodated in firmware.

Also, Apple is small in total marketshare. They are not that small in comparison to other computer manufacturers. And they ARE one of the largest sellers of wireless gear since all of their products include it.

Quote - dp123 said @ #8.2
What compatibility issues? Apple doesn't have to care about supporting everyone else's devices. They just need to worry about their own. Also, this occurred with 802.11a as well... They shipped pre-finalization and they were able to properly update. I'm sure Apple simply feels the pre-finalization hardware is close enough that any changes can be accomodated in firmware.

Also, Apple is small in total marketshare. They are not that small in comparison to other computer manufacturers. And they ARE one of the largest sellers of wireless gear since all of their products include it.

Compatibility issues with other "Pre-N" devices... The updates would come in driver updates i'm sure and not in firmware updates. As to my knowledge network cards haven't included flashable ROMs for about 10 years or so.

Apple is small in total market share and Wireless sales, by your logic not mine on the wireless sales. You claim Apple would be one of the largest sellers of Wireless products since all of their products include it. What OEM manufactures computers (well laptops mainly) without Wireless? HP and Dell are the largest computer companies in the world and they include Wireless offerings in all of their products on the notebook side. I'm sure they have a LOT more barganing power with the device makers than Apple any day. Apple would get the device makers to accomodate their needs at a drastically higher cost. I'm sure cutting that cost was one of Apple's reasons of going Intel (x86). It is cheaper for them to buy WiFi cards that are also being sold to everyone else and just not include drivers enabling features they don't support than ask the hardware makers to build custom boards for them. They simply don't have the marketshare to make that a sensible buiness model (again that's why they went x86).

Compatibility issues with other "Pre-N" devices...

Can you read? Apple doesn't care about non-Apple devices and doesn't have to.


Apple is small in total market share and Wireless sales, by your logic not mine on the wireless sales.

Okay, now I seriously doubt your ability to read. I did not say this at all.

What OEM manufactures computers (well laptops mainly) without Wireless?

Woops, forgot that the majority of Dell's sales are not laptops and most don't include wireless so I'll throw a qualifier in parantheses at the end because clearly lots of Dells, HPs, and others machines don't include wireless.

It is cheaper for them to buy WiFi cards that are also being sold to everyone else and just not include drivers enabling features they don't support than ask the hardware makers to build custom boards for them.

What? These pre-draft n cards are being sold to everyone? So which PC are you willing to crack open to prove that every PC now has these pre-draft n cards in it? There hasn't been a single report of it. Maybe there are one or two, but it's pretty stupid to claim that Apple isn't pushing ahead of everyone else with zero proof of it, isn't it?

They simply don't have the marketshare to make that a sensible buiness model (again that's why they went x86).

Of course they do. As I said, they are one of the largest wireless suppliers... They aren't far behind anyone but Dell and HP in terms of unit sales, and they make near 30% margins on their sales while PC makers make about 10%.

Makes sense the way they are doing it.

Worst case (if the final version of Wireless-N is incompatible with the draft-N cards), Apple will just say that they promised Wireless-G only.

Best case, Apple rolls out a firmware/driver upgrade over Software Update when the wireless-N specification is finalized and everyone is happy.

No: worse case, Apple releases an 802.11n-Apple-specific Airport base station so that "their" flavor of n only works on their own wireless products and computers. They don't need to support everyone's flavor of n.

Quote - dp123 said @ #5.1
No: worse case, Apple releases an 802.11n-Apple-specific Airport base station so that "their" flavor of n only works on their own wireless products and computers. They don't need to support everyone's flavor of n.

But they have no reason to do this. The past few years they've been touting the fact that Mac and Windows work well together, why suddenly cut out Windows users, and any other wireless hardware, from their networks?

Firstly, you're presuming they won't work post-draft. Bold assumption. Secondly, they won't be cutting them out; they have no reason to presume compatibility. Thirdly, these cards will still work as standard a/b/g devices so no one will be cut out. And Fourthly, the advantage is far greater for Apple to flip the switch when they want to.

And, finally, what about all the folks doing pre-draft already? Are they committing some huge sin?

Yup. The driver for OSX is currently not enabled for 802.11n functionality. Under Windows, drivers are available to download so it works.

Nic, you forgot to say it only occurs in Windows, only works as 802.11g (i think its called that) under OS X...So still sort of pointless for OS X users, untill they release a firmware which will enable it under OS X

Sweet, this is great news for Mac owners :)

I have a MIMO router atm, it's slightly faster than the current Pre-N/Draft-N ones.... one day I will be able to afford the network cards for it lol The great thing about MIMO and also 802.11n is the range and signal quality is greatly improved, i've found full 4 bar signal levels just in my small house using my MIMO router in G mode, even with old G hardware, whereas I used to get 1 bar.

It's also a shame my internet isn't as fast as my router, one day i'm sure we'll all be watching HDTV movies live over the net

p.s. Atheros rock! solid chips, good design and good drivers.

Let's home 802.11n doesn't turn into an interoperability nightmare.