CES - New Netgear products aim to simplify home networking

Netgear introduced at CES three new products that it hopes will simplify wireless home networking.

Netgear is launching three new wireless networking products that aim to address the problem, perennially discussed at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, of complicated home networking setup.

"Our customers in their homes or small offices should be able to utilize high-speed broadband networking for any application, including communications, information gathering or entertainment, from any corner of the house without any interruption," said Patrick Lo, chairman, CEO and founder of Netgear. Like the heating system in a house, a home network should work reliably, without much thought by users, he said.

Using the new devices unveiled at the conference, a Netgear executive demonstrated simultaneous wireless streaming of an HD video, live HD gaming and video downloading -- and then removed a hard drive from the storage device -- all without a glitch.

The new products include the RangeMax Dual Band Wireless N Router, which incorporates new antenna technology developed by Netgear. The router contains eight antennas, which Netgear says ensures quality streaming despite potential interference from other wireless gear including microwave ovens, cordless phones and neighboring Wi-Fi networks.

"It's always better to have many antennas... but densely packing them inside the unit has been historically impossibly to achieve with good performance," said Vivek Pathela, vice president of product marketing for Netgear. Netgear's new technology allows many antennas to operate inside a device, delivering good performance, he said.

The router also includes new technology that lets users push a button to automatically set up a secure connection between the router and any other standard client. Typically, users must work through a software application to set up secure connections.

Netgear also introduced the ReadyNAS Duo, a media server designed to centrally store any digital media including videos, photos and music. In an unusual feature for a consumer device, the ReadyNAS supports hot swapping -- allowing users to remove a drive without interrupting streaming or other use of the device.

The ReadyNAS comes in several configurations, including with 500G bytes of storage for US$500 and 1G byte for $750. An optional second drive in the device automatically mirrors the content of the first to protect against potential loss of data. An even larger version of the ReadyNas can handle 4T bytes of data.

Users can connect PCs, Macs, HD TVs and IP (Internet Protocol) set-top boxes to the server. It also has a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port for connecting digital cameras to upload photos and view them on a TV.

Consumers that want to use the ReadyNas but don't want to upgrade their existing router, can buy the new HD/Gaming 5GHz Wireless-N Networking Kit. The kit comes with two units. Users attach one to their current router, which could comply with the older Wireless B or Wireless G standards. The other device connects to other clients such as a gaming console or HD TV to create a wireless connection. The kit essentially upgrades an existing network to deliver high performance video, Pathela said.

Netgear hopes that these new products, possibly combined with 15 others the company is introducing at CES, will address the challenges that many people face when setting up networks in their homes. For many, the variety of wired and wireless technologies, many of which don't interoperate, have made home networks too challenging to tackle. For the past several years, technology companies at CES have focused on trying to solve this problem.

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