Netgear hits super G-spot for home networking

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Netgear has flagged a big push into the digital home space, announcing several new wireless products expected to attract fans of home networking and multimedia entertainment.

Netgear has flagged a big push into the digital home space, announcing several new wireless products expected to attract fans of home networking and multimedia entertainment.
Ian McLean, Asia-Pacific managing director at Netgear, spoke to news media and analysts at a wireless products presentation in Sydney on Wednesday. He said there were big opportunities for growth in the home market for the company -- which has been mainly focused on corporate networking for firms with 250 to 500 users.
'We believe we have the opportunity to grow the market in Australia another 43 percent this year. Key areas are ethernet LAN, broadband routers and wireless LAN,' he said. 'This is Netgear's push into the digital home market.'
McLean said that growth would be led by demand for wireless networking gear that enabled users to easily set up converged entertainment precincts in their homes. Some 50 to 60 percent of home networkers would look at wireless as their main infrastructure, he said.
Increased business demand for wireless would follow. Dealers, VARs and smaller system integrators would be critical in driving those sales, he added.
'We think we'll see growth in the home marketplace here ... that we have seen in Europe three years ago. I believe we're right on the cusp of that growth,' McLean said.' Wireless last year was talked about, much hyped, but the security was questionable, it was too slow and the manageability was questionable.'
Today, the applications were coming through and driving the market, along with new developments in switching and 802.11g standard technology. Home gaming -- particularly broadband-based networked gaming -- was one driver, he said.
Meanwhile, tri-band wireless products had also come down in price. 'They're now only 20 to 30 percent more than the vanilla 'g' products,' McLean said.
Netgear is releasing several wireless products expected to inspire growth to its channel in the next few months -- including Super G wireless firewall routers, access points and PC cards.
Super G is 'turbo-charged 802.11g' technology with a top data transfer speed of 108Mb/s – twice that of standard 802.11g's 54Mb/s and 10 times that of 802.11b's 11Mb/s.
Such products would significantly improve the switching speed of wireless networks, which in the past some users have found frustratingly slow, Mclean said.
Super-G was expected to eventually have its own standard, which would need to be ratified. However, Netgear felt sufficiently confident in the technology to start releasing the products now, Mclean said.
Netgear is also releasing an 802.11b wireless digital media player, the MP101, which would enter the market as a digital music player but was expected to eventually mutate to offer digital video as well, he said.
The MP101 enables users to wirelessly connect their stereo system or home theatre to their home computer network. It can sniff out all the music files on any networked PC and collate them into a database tagged for artist, genre, album, track or playlist. In addition, it can also stream internet radio, even when PCs are turned off. RRP is $379.
Jeff Fulton, senior networking engineer at Netgear, said that wireless security issues had been 'pretty much licked' with the development of WPA (Wifi protected access).
Further, since some switches that used to cost $800 now retailed for around $250, funds left over could be spent on upgrading to technologies that offered greater functionality and benefits that were previously too costly to achieve, he said.
Technology such as managed switching was no longer experts-only, he said, although some consultancies and service providers had an interest in pretending that was the case.
For example, resellers might focus on educating customers about the benefits of upgrading to wireless, or upgrading 10/100 Ethernet to 10/100/1000, from workgroup to rackmounted, from unmanaged to managed, and to layer three from layer two switching, Fulton said.
'So what we will be discussing with our resellers is that there is opportunity for them to make the money,' he said.
Meanwhile, power-over-Ethernet had also reached industry standard while interoperability issues -- for example with Cisco -- equipment had also diminished as part of a co-operative effort by vendors, Fulton said.
However, Netgear competitor Linksys is not so sanguine about the prospects for Super G.
Brian Allsopp, regional manager for Linksys Australia and New Zealand, said that Super G rarely hit 108Mb/s. Data speeds tended to be just 20 or 30 percent faster than standard 802.11g.
'Also, there are interoperability problems,' he said.
Allsopp said Super G technology was proprietary. Partly for that reason, take-up was likely to remain mainly in the consumer space, as it would only work for those that bought their main set-up from one vendor, he said.
'It also won't work if you have a Centrino laptop,' Allsopp said. 'All the “super turbo” implementations are proprietary and that's why it's taken us so long to release the products, because all we use is Centrino.'
Linksys has introduced a Super G product in the US and expected to release one here shortly, he said.
Linksys is also pushing further into the home networking space this year, releasing a variety of products via the channel which might give Netgear a run for its money.
'You've got consumers, IT, PCs, Microsoft and Sony all coming into the lounge room and that's an exciting time,' he said. 'Clearly, the digital home area is where there's going to be a lot of interest from a lot of different aspects.'
Allsopp said Linksys is releasing a wireless DVD player. More consumers were going to start building little media PCs which they could put all their media files on and stream around the house, he predicted.
'We've got wireless media devices too, that will plug into a TV in your bedroom,' Allsopp said. 'From a service provider point of view, it enables you to download DVDs over broadband and watch them on your TV.'
A standard TV could do that, as the Linksys media player used a standard RCA, S-video or optical upload connection, Allsopp said.



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