updated 6/7/2004 9:17:01 PM ET 2004-06-08T01:17:01

Apple Computer Inc. broadened its support of Windows-based computers Monday, introducing a new wireless access device designed to work with computers running either Mac OS X or Microsoft Corp.’s operating system.

Airport Express, which will be available in July and retail for $129, takes a single broadband Internet connection and shares it among wireless-enabled computers and other devices within the range of its signal.

It’s about the size of deck of cards, weighs only 6.7 ounces and, for the first time, enables the playback of digital music purchased from Apple’s online iTunes Music Store on a stereo not plugged into a computer. A printer also can be connected to the device.

Worldwide sale of Wi-Fi gear for homes and small offices topped $1.3 billion in 2003, a 43 percent jump over 2002, according to Synergy Research Group. Microsoft, however, decided last month to exit its Wi-Fi hardware business, claiming it had completed its mission to improve security and ease-of-use in the industry.

Meanwhile, Apple has increasingly boosted support for Windows-based computers. Last year, it launched iTunes for Windows. In 2001, it began selling iPod music players for Windows.

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