Networking giant Cisco has decided to nudge into the world of consumer Wi-Fi gear, today announcing its new Valet line of home Wi-Fi routers. The idea behind the Valet brand is to create simple Wi-Fi routers that everyday computer users can install and set up without any high-end technical knowledge: just pop the USB Setup Key into their PC or Mac, answer three questions, and the wireless service is ready to go. Cisco cites an IDC study that finds only about one third of US households are set up for wireless Internet—and that low rate of adoption is due in part to the complexities of setting up wireless networks.
“Valet is home wireless made easy,” said Cisco consumer products senior VP and general manager Jonathan Kaplan, in a statement. “With complementary backgrounds and expertise, our Cisco and Flip teams have combined forces to change the rules for home wireless with a product line that empowers consumers to easily set up, enjoy, and manage all of their wireless devices anywhere in their homes.”
Cisco says the Valets are so easy to set up that all users have to do is pop the included USB Setup Key in their PC or Mac, and the Valet software does the rest. Cisco says its Valet system takes the 20 or 30 steps normally involved in setting up a wireless network down to just three steps, and users can then move the USB Setup Key to additional home computers to painlessly get them up and running on wireless. Included Cisco Connect software then makes it straightforward to add more devices to the network (think iPhones, game consoles, etc.), set up a separate network for guests, establish parental controls, and customize security settings.
Cisco is initially offering two models of Valet routers: the Valet and Valet Plus. The Valet offers 802.11n Wi-Fi networking and four 100 Mbps Ethernet ports for connecting to a wired network, where the Valet Plus steps up to four gigabit Ethernet ports. The Valet is priced at $99.99; the Valet Plus goes for $149.99. Cisco is also offering a $79.99 USB Valet Connector that brings 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity to older machines by popping into a free USB port.
The Valet move is a curious one for Cisco: the Cisco brand is more familiar to computer users through its high-end router and switch products that are commonly deployed in enterprises and data centers to manage large volumes of Internet traffic. Cisco also owns LinkSys, which has specialized in consumer-oriented routers and switches for years, and recently acquired Flip Video, makers of those inexpensive handheld digital camcorders.