LAS VEGAS--Despite the scariest cross-wind landing I have ever experienced, when arriving in Las Vegas last Saturday, CES 2012 panned out mostly smoothly, with no unpleasant surprises.
Though there were no working 802.11ac (or 5G Wi-Fi as the technology is called by BroadCom) devices at the show (all products showcased here were just mock-ups or nonfunctioning prototypes), every single networking vendor I talked with--such as TrendNet, BroadCom, Cisco, Netgear, D-Link, Belkin, and Buffalo--committed to offering 802.11ac devices as early as the second part of 2012.
The new 802.11ac is a much anticipated wireless networking standard that will boast a wireless speed of up to 1.3Gbps and is fully backward compatible with the existing 802.11n/g/b clients. The fact that it was so popular at the show suggests it will enjoy a much faster adoption than did 802.11n, which is currently the most popular wireless standard.
The second biggest trend within the networking category is the rise of cloud-based services. Basically, this means that soon users will be able to control and manage their home network via the Internet, especially with a mobile app.
D-Link announced at CES its first Cloud router and the expansion of its Mydlink portal, which was originally used only for its IP camera, to support wireless routers, including its flagship DIR-857 that won the Best of CES 2012 award for the networking and storage category.
Netgear also announced its cloud-based services that even include an app store that allows users to download apps to personalize their networking and storage experience. While Cisco didn't announce anything at the show, it already released the Cisco Connect Express a while ago in the form of the Linksys E4200 v2, and has hinted that the app will soon support cloud-based services.
Power-line networking got a new boost at the show with HomePlug Alliance announcing the HomePlug AV 2 standard, which doubles the speed (up to 1Gbps), and D-Link touting its first Gigabit hybrid router, the DHP-1565, which has built-in support for 500Mbps Powerline AV. And finally, wireless range was also a big focus of the show with EnGenius's new XtraRange lineup and Amped Wireless' new R1000G router. Both promise to offer exceptional range, compared with other routers.
In the storage department, Thunderbolt-based storage has now become much more affordable than its first products, like the Pegasus R6. This is mostly thanks to the announcement of new Thunderbolt adapters, such as those for the Seagate GoFlex drives, or the Thunderbolt eSATA hubs from LaCie. These new accessories allow existing and affordable external hard drives to be used with the Thunderbolt standard.
In addition, there will soon be more Thunderbolt-based external hard drives, offering consumers more choices, such as the first bus-powered Thunderbolt portable drive from Elgato, the new LaCie 2big, WD's My Book Thunderbolt Duo and especially the Rugged Portable Thunderbolt that IoSafe unveiled with real lightning bolts.
Unfortunately, Intel didn't officially announce the release of Thunderbolt to Windows computers at the show, but rumor has it that the standard will likely be included with the new Ivy Bridge chipset.
The marriage of networking and storage this year bred a new type of device that offers both storage and a mobile hot spot on the go. Seagate teamed up with Verizon to unveil at the show its Personal Storage 4G LTE Wi-Fi device, which offers the functionality of the Seagate GoFlex Satellite and the Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot, in one compact box.
Solid-state drives also had a large presence at the show, with vendors showing off their current and new drives. For the first time, I also ran into RunCore, originally an OEM-only provider of solid-state drives, which has just joined the consumer market with the new Pro-V Max standard SSD.
And last but not least: Synology, the best NAS vendor in the market, announced at the show the beta of its new and exciting DSM 4.0, which adds a slew of featuers and improvements, including a brand-new Cloud Station.