Home wireless vendors aim to simplify routers

If it's been a while since you've purchased or upgraded your home wireless network equipment, you're not alone. Sales of home wireless gear have been pretty flat, leading to several theories about the reason why. Some feel that the current technology of 802.11g and/or 802.11n products is good enough for most home setups, and others suggest that the complexity of setup prevent new users from buying and installing these products.

Is Cisco Valet right for you?

Whatever the reason, vendors are attempting new approaches to try to increase sales, including Cisco and Belkin. The two companies recently announced new products to address some of these issues.

Belkin is designating its four new routers around the concept of what users can do with the devices – the Surf ($49.99), Share ($79.99), Play and Play Max Wireless Routers include applications in addition to the basic wireless routing functions. All of the routers include a Self-Healing app that automatically detects and resolves network problems, as well as running routine maintenance scans. A Print Genie application lets users wirelessly print from any computer on the network, and the Memory Safe application can automatically back up files to a separate external hard drive.

The higher-end Play ($99.99) and Play Max ($129.99) versions include dual-band 802.11n technology, and are aimed at users who want to stream HD movies, play games online and download large media files. Applications on the Play and Play Max include the Music Mover, which lets you play your music library on the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3; and the Daily DJ app, which analyzes the "musical DNA" of your music and creates playlists around three different moods. The Play Max router also includes Torrent Genie (download large media files when the computer isn't on), and Bit Boost, which prioritizes traffic on the network for video, gaming and VoIP traffic.

Cisco last week launched a new line of Linksys wireless routers. To address the complexity issue, Cisco launched its Valet series to offer users an easier way to set up their home networks. The Valet systems come with a USB "Easy Setup Key" that users plug into their PC or Mac, and the new Cisco Connect software sets up the system in three steps. Settings are stored on the USB key, which can then be connected to other PCs to add them to the network. The software also provides parental controls, and the ability to set up Internet access for guests.

Two versions are available – the Valet costs $99.99 and is aimed at small or midsize homes with mostly wireless clients; the Valet Plus costs $149.99 and is aimed at homes with a mix of wireless and wired clients. The Valet Connector ($79.99) upgrades older computers to the new network.

For tech enthusiasts, Cisco also announced its E Series of routers, ranging from the E1000 ($79.99), the E2000 ($119.99) and the high-end, dual-band E3000 ($179.99). The company also announced the E2100L, which includes a Linux operating system. All of these routers will also include the new Cisco Connect Software.

Shaw can be reached at kshaw@nww.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/shawkeith.

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This story, "Home wireless vendors aim to simplify routers" was originally published by Network World.

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