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Behind the curtain...

While it was no surprise that Microsoft chose a networking OEM to supply their new BroadBand Networking product line, I was surprised at how easy it was to find out who got the nod to be MS's networking arms supplier.

Reader Christopher Lee tipped me to the downloadable User Guide for the MN-500 Wireless Base Station, which provided the FCC ID numbers for the MN-500, 510 and 520. A quick lookup of the Grantee code (HED) of the MN-500's ID (HEDACC300568) in the FCC ID Search Page showed that Accton was the company that won what must have been a hard-fought battle for Microsoft's business.

As the Org chart below from Accton's site shows, Accton is parent not only to SMC, maker of the Barricade router and EZ-Connect Wireless networking product lines, but also to chipmaker ADMtek.

Source: Accton Website

Although it may seem strange that Accton is both a supplier to, and competitor of Microsoft, this dual-natured relationship is neither unique for Accton, nor for the electronics business in general. Virtually all laptops, notebooks, and PDAs are designed and manufactured by a small number of Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) in Taiwan, and the consumer networking business has a very similar structure. The big players include Accton, AMIT, Global SUN Technology, and SerComm, along with many smaller companies who make their products and services available. In some cases, these ODMs design and manufacture products to specifications provided by the customer companies. In other cases the customers take a generic design produced by the ODM and have mainly cosmetic changes done to put their name on the product.

In Accton's case, they not only get Microsoft's business for the end-product, but also probably get a lower manufacturing cost because they also make one of the most expensive components, the CPU / Gateway Controller. As we'll see later, ADMtek has been particularly successful in design-ins for the most recent generation of consumer routing products, putting them in the dual competitor / vendor position with virtually all the major consumer networking companies.

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