Gateway, best known for its consumer line of PCs, will next week enter the business networking-equipment market with two wireless access devices and nine LAN switches aimed at mid-size businesses.

The US company will announce the new hardware next Tuesday, said Chad McDonald, manager of Gateway's networking division. The products are priced to attract a range of businesses in a middle tier between consumers and larger corporations that might normally deal with Cisco Systems, he added.

Gateway has chosen to get into the networking market so as to provide business customers with a well-rounded set of products, McDonald said. The company has been selling servers to businesses but has had to refer those customers to other vendors for switches that it could be selling itself. "These products will help us sell more servers, too," he said.

The upcoming switches will come up against products from Dell, which has been in the switching marketplace for about three years. Gateway already sells servers, storage devices and systems management software, and more than half of its revenue comes from professional products and services. It formed a partnership with IBM last year to use its Global Services personnel to support business users' needs. Gateway has more than 1,000 of its own employees devoted to business support.

Among the new products, the lowest-end switch will be the Gateway 7201-16, a 16-port, Layer 2, rack-mounted, unmanaged switch capable of providing 10Mbit or 100Mbit/s wire speeds. It is priced at $79 and is comparable in almost every way with Dell's PowerConnect 2016 switch.

At the high end, Gateway will offer a 7601-48.2 switch for $799, which it compares to the Dell PowerConnect 3348 for $949. The Gateway 7601-48.2 is a managed switch with 24 ports with 10/100/1,000 wire speeds (up to 1Gbit/s) that is capable of supporting 8,000 Ethernet devices. In June, Gateway will add two more switches in the 7800 series, for a total of 11 models.

The wireless access points include an 802.11g device available on Tuesday for $299, and an 802.11a+g device for $399 that will be available on April 13. Management is contained within the devices, but Gateway is working to develop centralized wireless access point management for a future release, McDonald said. Both access points include two LAN ports for greater security.

Despite a crowded market for wireless devices, with at least eight major vendors, McDonald predicted that Gateway's lower prices will appeal to businesses. All of the products will be sold directly by Gateway sales teams, as well as on the Web and through distributors. Most of the networking products will also be available in Gateway retail stores.