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Cisco Simplifies Wireless Networking

Cisco Valet Wireless Router
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Cisco Valet Wireless Router

Taking a page from Apple's playbook, Cisco has introduced a line of wireless routers that greatly simplifies the often complex process of setting up a home network.

Cisco debuted its Valet line Wednesday, saying the product pairs the company's wireless technology with the simplicity-in-design knowledge Cisco gained when it acquired Pure Digital Technologies, makers of the Flip camcorder, a year ago. Not to leave tech experts and enthusiasts out in the cold, Cisco also introduced a line of Linksys wireless routers that offers more advanced features.

The Valet line poses the greatest challenge to Apple's Airport, which owes its success to its ease-of-use. Cisco follows that same path through its Connect software, which the company claims can setup a PC or Mac for use with a Valet router in three steps.

Wireless routers with simplified setup and management could help boost deployment in U.S. homes. While the number of home networks is growing, adoption has been slow, primarily due to the complexity. Only about a third of U.S. homes are currently set up for wireless use, according to IDC.

Cisco's simplified Connect software comes in what the company calls an Easy Setup Key that plugs into a USB port. The USB stick retains all the setup information for each home computer and can be used at anytime to add additional computers to the network.

In addition, the Connect software enables users to set parental controls, provide Internet access to people on a separate guest network, and customize personal security settings, such as passwords.

The Valet line comes in two models. The standard version for small and medium-sized homes with primarily wireless devices has a suggested retail price of $99.99. A Valet Plus model for medium- to large-sized homes with a mix of wireless and wired devices is priced at $149.99.

Cisco's new Linksys E-Series also aims at simplifying the setup, customization and control of a home wireless network, while still providing advanced features through the routers' default IP address.

The series comprises four models with suggested prices ranging from $79.99 to $179.99. Depending on the model, the routers support much more than just home computers, such as storage devices for file sharing at home or over the Internet, game consoles, Internet-enabled television, Blu-ray players and other wireless devices at transfer speeds up to 300 Mb per second.

InformationWeek has published a report on robust next-generation LANs. Download the report here (registration required).