Apple Computer did it, combining 802.11g wireless, a USB print server, a WiFi repeater and bridge, and the ability to stream music wirelessly to consumer-electronic equipment.
The AirPort Express, priced at $129, will be sold to Mac and PC users beginning in July. Users will be able to plug the 6.7-ounce unit, about the size of a “wall wart” power transformer, directly into the wall. Apples price is slightly higher than that $79 to $99 USB print servers sold by Compex, Etherfast, and IOGear.
Like Apples other multimedia products, however, the AirPort Express revolves around Apples iTunes multimedia applet, which connects to Apples online store. The AirPort Express ships with an application called “AirTunes”, which will beam the selected iTune song from a Macintosh or PC to the device, each of which contains an analog/optical audio port that can be connected to a single device. Users receive the WiFi bridge capability, which can extend the range of a users WiFi network by up to 150 feet, as an added bonus.
“AirPort Express isnt just the worlds first mobile 802.11g base station — with the addition of AirTunes users can now play their iTunes music on any stereo in their home — all without wires,” said Steve Jobs, Apples chief executive, in a statement on Monday. “This innovative Apple product will appeal to both notebook users who want wireless freedom in their hotel rooms and to music lovers who want to listen to their iTunes music library on a stereo located anywhere in their home.”
The forthcoming iTunes version 4.6 will automatically detect the remote speakers and display them in a simple pop-up list for the user to select. Once the remote speakers are selected, AirTunes wirelessly streams the iTunes music from the computer to the AirPort Express base station using encryption and lossless compression, according to Apple.
AirPort Express will also serve as a wireless USB hub, allowing users to share a DSL connection and USB printer.