CES 2005 – Opening Day

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Tim Higgins


Since many companies are good enough to announce products or preview them at pre-show press events, I was able to put this report together before my writing skills decay into gibberish from said press events and the overload that sets in from the CES show floor.

Into the future! The Vegas monorail rocks!

Into the future! The Vegas monorail rocks!

So far, my favorite product isn’t on the show floor at all, but runs between the Las Vegas Convention Center and a few choice Strip hotels. The privately-funded monorail came back on line right before Christmas after some startup problems that had it shut down for a few months. But it’s up and running and saving me loads on cab rides! So far, though it’s pretty empty with most of the show crowd appearing to prefer standing in cab and shuttle bus lines.

Networked Storage

The big (pun intended) story in NAS is that some companies are supersizing their NAS offerings. Buffalo Technology has brought its previously Japan-only TeraStation to the U.S. market. The TeraStation (officially the HD-H1.OTGL/R5) is a 1 teraByte NAS box that can mount four 250GB drives. It supports four operational modes: Standard, Spanning, Mirroring and Raid 5.

Standard supports each drive as a separate network share and Spanning merges all four drives as a single volume. Mirroring creates two separate pairs of mirrored drives to prevent data loss in the event of drive failure, and Raid 5 is self-explanatory.

Buffalo Technology's TeraStation

Buffalo Technology’s TeraStation

Other features include a Journaling File System, compatibility with popular UPS interfaces to initiate smooth shutdown in the event of power loss, USB print server, and client-to-server and server-to-server backup utilities. Port complement includes four USB 2.0 and one 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet port with the USB ports handling connection of printers or additional drives. Buffalo is positioning the TeraStation as both a SMB and consumer product, but the $999.99 price tag when it hits the shelves next month, although very aggressive, will be a bit difficult for most home networkers to justify to their spouse.

Buffalo is also introducing wireless versions of their LinkStation NAS line in 160, 250 and 300GB flavors that have all the non-wireless LinkStation features. The plain ol’ 54Mbps 802.11g AP supports Buffalo’s AOSS auto WLAN setup and includes an external indoor omni antenna thrown in for good measure. All versions will be out by the end of January at estimated street prices of $349 for 160GB, $449 for the 250GB and $549 for the 300GB – or about $50 above the non-wireless price.

Switching back to the bigger-is-better category, startup Anthology Solutions upped the teraByte ante coming in at 1.6T total capacity for its Yellow Machine P400T storage appliance. The “toaster-sized” box also incorporates more networking features than the TeraStation including an 8-port LAN switch, NAT+SPI router / firewall, email backup and recording, web access controls, LAN client backup and RAID 0, 1 and 5 for redundancy.

Anthology Solutions Yellow Machine

Anthology Solutions Yellow Machine

What it lacks compared to the TeraStation is USB 2.0 ports for disk expansion and print serving, which is also not included. Pricing and availabilty weren’t in Anthology’s release, but I’ll see if I can get them when I visit their booth.

Also to be seen around the show are previously-announced NAS products such as Iomega’s NAS 100d, and SimpleTech’s SimpleShare. I’ll also drop by NETGEAR’s booth to see if they’re showing the Zetera-based high-performance NAS.

Airgo isn’t alone anymore

It looks like Belkin’s Pre-N MIMO products have done well enough that their competitors have decided to plow ahead and litter the market with incompatible MIMO systems.

At least Linksys’ SRX router and card should be interoperable with Belkin’s Pre-N, since they are both based on Airgo’s True MIMO technology. But NETGEAR decided to see Airgo’s three-antenna MIMO and raise it four antennas for a total of seven even if it meant going with an unknown startup’s (Video54) technology. (I guess the number of antennas will be the next product-box “starburst” that consumers will be trained to look for…)

NETGEAR’s RangeMax in action

But I have to wonder why NETGEAR went with Video54 and a blinky-light product “demo”, when they could have had real product based on Atheros’ MIMO chipset unveiled this morning. Guess I’ll have to ask them!

Video54 isn’t the only startup to go jump into the MIMO pool, either. Samsung is backing fabless startup Athena Semiconductor‘s three radio design dubbed TRINI. I’ll be checking out Samsung’s demonstration that “will show consistent link throughputs in excess of 50 Mbps” by using two simultaneous HDTV streams and a single Standard Definition Television stream. The release also said the TRINI chipset will be available to “select OEM and ODM partners” in 1Q of 2005 and in production in 2Q.

The Battle for your Multimedia Networking Bucks

The big story, at least from a networking perspective, is that the proliferation of networking technologies aimed at getting that ol’ streaming video around your home (you do stream, don’t you?) has heated to the point of boiling over. It seems that a “we don’t need no steenking standards” attitude has become the rule of the land with companies grabbing for market share first and letting the standards part sort itself out later (usually with industry consortium help).

The battle is raging on three fronts – wireless, coax and powerline – with coax looking like the most unified, but that could just be good marketing on the part of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA). At any rate, I’ll be stopping by at Entropic to see where they are on products that you can actually buy and see what they have for a demo.

Powerline keeps crawling along toward the promised land of HomePlug AV’s 200Mbps, but real products don’t seem to be anywhere near shipping yet. I’ll be checking out demos that are supposed to show Intellon’s HomePlug AV acting as a network backbone to supply multiple Freescale DS-UWB HDTV tranceivers with HD content from a Samsung media server. A second demo will show a PVR feeding to a Sharp Aquos LCD TV via an Intellon HomePlug AV connection. The main thing I want to know is when does this stuff ship?

But it looks liks at least one company has decided not to wait for HomePlug AV. Valencia-based (as in Spain, not California) Design of Systems on Silicon is showing a reference design wall module that uses its DSS9010 chip that claims to have the same 200Mbps raw data rate promised by AV. Curiously, DS2’s press kit also contained a product brochure for Corinex’ 200Mbps AV Powerline Ethernet Adapter, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing them around the HomePlug booth, too.

Update! No sooner had I posted this than Panasonic announced that it had joined with Mitsubishi Electric and Sony to “establish an alliance for high-speed power line communication (PLC)”. According to the release, the new alliance is tentatively called the CE-Powerline Communication Alliance (CEPCA) and “will promote PLC-capable home networking worldwide by encouraging other consumer electronics and information technology companies to collaborate”. Both Mitsubishi and Sony are “Participant Members” of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance.

The wireless multimedia story is so confusing that it deserves its own section, and some more research so that I keep the amount of foot that I eat this week to a minimum.

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