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Netgear extends networking beyond PCs, targets 3D TVs and tablets

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To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Netgear is taking home networking beyond the PC and home. At its pre-CES press conference a few minutes ago, Patrick Lo, CEO and founder of Netgear announced eight new wireless routing products, all of them aimed at extending Wi-Fi connections to non-PC products like tablets, smartphones, and HDTVs. In addition, the company is launching a new device that allows you to organize & stream video, pictures, and music to any device on a home network and anywhere in the world.

2011 is a tipping point, says Lo: “Before we were connecting primarily PCs, now we’re going on to primarily connecting mobile devices.” Netgear hopes to help integrate tablet PCs, handheld video game systems, smartphones, and other portable media players into the home network.

Below is a quick run-down of the products shown.

Connecting home media

netgear-ces-2011-neotv-550The first three products Netgear discussed are all aimed at home theater and media enthusiasts. The 3DHD Wireless Home Theater Networking Kit allows users to connect and stream content to four HD (and 3D) televisions and video-capable devices like the iPad. Like most of the products Netgear unveiled, the setup is simple: you attach it to the wireless router you already have.

To manage content, Netgear demonstrated two relatively new products: the NeoTV 550 Ultimate HD Media Player and the ReadyNAS Ultra 2 Home Media Server. NeoTV automatically scans and organizes videos, photos, and music from across devices on your home network and lets you watch it on your TV or from the Web. The ReadyNAS media server takes it one step further, allowing you to aggregate all of your content and stream it anywhere on your network and across the Web using a technology Netgear is calling ‘Orb.’ The ReadyNAS can also connect up to Tivo boxes.

Routers

netgear-ces-2011-n600-wireless-routerThe release Netgear seemed most excited about is its new N600 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router, which it claims is the highest performance wireless router on the market today. Notable features include the ability to scan your neighborhood for free Internet signals and auto-connect to the best one, shorter buffering time when streaming HD video across the network, bandwidth optimization, and the Netgear Genie interface, which lets you monitor everything on your network. The Genie will notify you of new connections to your network (if you wish), will automatically fix connection problems, monitor your broadband use, network printers, and has a number of other apps for things like guest logins and parental controls. The N600 leads a line of three other similar routers.

In addition, Netgear is already on top of the trend toward 4G mobile broadband. The company announced a new 3G and 4G Wi-Fi router in collaboration with Verizon Wireless (in the U.S.). Bell Canada will also sell the device.

Wireless extensions

netgear-ces-2011-powerline-adapters_650Last, but not least, David Henry, Netgear senior director of consumer products, introduced a line of small devices designed to extend and improve wireless networks. The Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender plugs into a wall outlet and effectively doubles the range of Wi-Fi in your house. It works with any wireless router. In addition to Wi-Fi extending, Henry also showed off a line of Powerline adapters, which use regular power lines to transfer Internet connections throughout the home. Capping off the eight new product unveilings was the Powerline AV200 Nano adapter: the smallest powerline adapter in the world.

Overall

Netgear has a good showing this year. While its demonstrations lack the sexiness of a new tablet or 3D TV, the company announced a number of new products that are far more useful. In its 15th year, Netgear seems to have its finger on the pulse of where networking is headed. As more and more media leaves the physical, disc-based world, it is becoming more and more unwieldy to manage it across devices. It’s good to see a company attempting to create products that solve problems and fill voids.