Cisco woos developers, adds 802.11ac support as Connect Cloud goes live
Cisco announces today the availability of the Cisco Connect Cloud platform for its Linksys EA series routers (the Linksys E4200v2 included), a new 802.11ac router, and the Linksys Developer Community for those interested in developing apps for its Smart Wi-Fi routers.
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CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Cisco Connect Cloud is a software platform for Linksys Smart Wi-Fi routers -- currently comprising the Linksys EA2700, EA3500, and EA4500 -- intended to change the way consumers interact with their connected personal entertainment devices and home appliances, all via the Internet. For example, instead of the Cisco Connect Express mobile app, which works only within a local network, users can now opt for the Internet-based Cisco Connect Cloud mobile app, or just log in at the Cisco Connect Cloud portal, and be in complete control of their home network, no matter where they are.
There's a lot more to this, however. For the first time Cisco is allowing, and encouraging, independent developers to create mobile apps for its home network routers, specifically those in the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router family. According to Cisco, available immediately are six other iOS apps developed by third parties for the EA series, including Twonky Video and IP Camera Viewer.
Twonky Video makes it possible to browse video content online or on your network from your phone or tablet, and beam it to any DLNA- or AirPlay-compatible device. With IP Camera Viewer, on the other hand, users can view and manage any IP camera connected to an EA series router, from a mobile device. Cisco says this is just the beginning and that there will be hundreds of mobile apps that take advantage of the Cisco Connect Cloud platform, making home networking not just more convenient to use but also more fun and offering features that many people may not have imagined possible before.
That's because today Cisco also announced the Linksys Developer Community, a program for developers wanting to create apps for the new Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Routers. The community is designed to make developing apps simple, and offers SDKs, quick tutorials, and sample code. The company also has partnered with makers of home appliances and entertainment devices, such as Whirlpool and Onkyo, to make home devices supported by the Smart Wi-Fi routers.
If you buy a new Cisco EA series router now, it'll have support for the Cisco Connect Cloud built in. Existing EA series routers will need to have their firmware updated. If you didn't opt out of the automatic update during the initial router setup, the upgrade will be pushed to the router automatically. Otherwise, you'll need to manually update it, which is a relatively simple task that takes just a few minutes. In addition to Cisco Connect Cloud, the new firmware adds many other features, such as a much more robust Web interface, support for universal settings between different routers of the same series, SimpleTap (the ability to connect devices via tapping and near-field communication), and so on.
Note that, as an exception, the Linksys E4200v2, which belongs to the previous E series, will also get a similar firmware update and once updated will offer the same features and functionality as the Linksys EA4500. Needless to say, future EA routers from Cisco will come with built-in Cisco Connect Cloud support.
Speaking of new routers, Cisco also announced today the Linksys EA6500, its first router that supports the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. The EA6500 is a three-by-three 802.11ac router, similar to the Netgear R6300 or the Buffalo AirStation WZR-D1800H, and simultaneously offers up to 1,300Mbps data rate on the 5GHz band and up to 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, while being compatible with all existing Wi-Fi devices on the market. The new router will be accompanied by the Linksys AC Universal Media Connector, which bridges a 802.11ac wireless connection to up to four Ethernet-ready devices.
The EA6500 router and Media Connector will be available in August and September, respectively, and will be reviewed as they become available. In the meantime, check back soon to find out how the Linksys EA4500's performance stacks up and how the new Cisco Connect Cloud platform pans out for home users.