updated 11:50 am EDT, Wed March 24, 2010
Belkin spins media sharing features as apps
Belkin today tried to seize on the popularity of mobile apps today by launching a set of Wi-Fi routers that apply the app metaphor to features. The Play, Play Max, Share and Surf all have varying levels of apps that both handle previous router features as well as extend them beyond their normal limitations. The Play and Play Max are the most advanced and can control media streaming themselves: they can play music directly from a USB hard drive, label tracks, auto-coreate playlists and push music to UPnP devices like game consoles.
The Play Max as the flagship gets the best features and adds a dedicated BitTorrent client (Torrent Genie) as well as a manually adjustable quality of service feature (Bit Boost) to prioritize games, HD video or similarly intensive data traffic. Every router except for the basic Surf gets a wireless printing app (Print Genie) and over-the-network backup to a USB drive (Memory Safe). The entire line gets a Self Healing feature that can automatically mend network problems.
Actual hardware features also change in the line. The Play ($100) and Play Max ($130) use dual-band 802.11n and have four gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connections in addition to one USB. The Share ($80) uses single-band 802.11n and 100Mbps Ethernet jacks, and the Surf ($50) omits USB. A pair of companion USB adapters, the dual-band Play and single-band Surf & Share, can add Wi-Fi to computers that don't already have it built-in.
All of the lineup will reach the US next month, but won't spread to Europe until May and Canada until July. The Asia Pacific region has been given a vague summer launch window.