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CES: Netgear capitalizes on tablets and 3-D

January 5, 2011 | 11:15 am

Netgear 3DHD The advent of tablet computers, connected TVs and 3-D displays is a boon not just to the makers of those devices but also to networking equipment maker Netgear, CEO Patrick Lo told a CES audience Wednesday morning.

Much of company's new device lineup is dedicated to accommodating the demand for bandwidth by more devices and in more places around the home. Several products, including a $100 wireless range extender and a $140 pint-sized adapter to convert a power outlet into an Ethernet jack, aim to eradicate Internet-free zones, under the theory that people are going to want to use their smart phones and tablet computers wherever they happen to be in their homes. Others, including a wireless home theater networking kit that can deliver high-definition streams simultaneously to four devices, address the bandwidth logjam caused by multiple Internet-connected TVs in the home -- as well as the anticipated bottleneck that streaming 3-D will cause.

There's clearly a synergy between broadband, expanding connectivity and Netgear's ability to sell new networking equipment at premium prices (e.g., routers for $120 to $200, not $40 to $60). I wonder, though, when that synergy will reach another product line that Netgear and its rivals have been pushing for several years, with limited success: networked attached storage devices for the home. The company showed yet another one Wednesday -- the ReadyNAS Ultra 2 -- which includes built-in media servers that can deliver music and video not just to smart displays around the home, but also to smart phones and Web browsers outside the home. My guess is that the concept is still too geeky for the masses, but consumers may be drawn to the device's ability to find and organize content stored on devices scattered around the home.

One other intriguing point: Netgear unveiled a router (MBR1000) that works with 3G and 4G mobile networks, not DSL or cable modems. Those networks deliver speeds ranging from 1.5 Mbps to more than 10 Mbps, at least in theory, which makes them competitive with entry-level DSL services -- in speed, that is, though not necessarily in price. Netgear's David Henry said Verizon Wireless and Bell Canada both were expected to sell the routers this year.

Photo: Netgear 3-D wireless home theater networking kit. Credit: Netgear


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-- Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division.