Apple, Compaq and Dell have joined a consortium of wireless networking technology manufacturers, giving what may be critical mass to an effort to establish a standard so that machines by different makers will be able to communicate without cables. The companies signed up with 3-week-old Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, which is pushing IEEE 802.11 High Rate as the technology standard. The group, founded by 3Com, Lucent, Nokia and others, has most of the market share for local area networking vendors but hasn't been joined by Proxim, which has more than 20% of the market. The alliance also adopted a new name for the chosen standard, Wi-Fi, for wireless fidelity. Although many leaders in the phone equipment and computer industries expect fast wireless connections to transform business and home networking, progress has been hampered because a company that buys equipment from one vendor doesn't know if it can add equipment from another and coordinate the two. With Dell, Compaq and Apple on board, "It's a lot more clear that this technology could start showing up in the home" as well as businesses, said WECA Chairman Phil Belanger.