Apple has quietly announced the launch of a new AirPort Extreme base station based on the 802.11n wireless protocol.

Although not mentioned in Steve Jobs' keynote speech at MacWorld 2007 in San Francisco the company, now simply called Apple Inc rather than Apple Computers inc will offer the new base station from next month in the US priced at $179.

The new device promises five times the performance and twice the range of the previous AirPort Extreme.

Based on 802.11n, which is still to be ratified the new AirPort Extreme Base Station features a sleek, new design with connections for networked computers, printers and a USB hard drive to quickly and easily share files or back up valuable data and content.

The new device will also use MIMO (Multiple In Multiple Out) smart antennas to boost the range of signal and have the ability to operate in either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz wireless frequencies,

The AirPort Extreme Base Station features a new design that is 6.5 inches square and 1.3 inches tall.