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Western Digital jumps into home router business

Drive maker Western Digital (WD) today announced that it is entering the home router business with a line of products aimed at accelerating streaming video, online gaming and voice-over-IP chat sessions.

"This changes the perspective on what WD does," said Paul Chen, WD's senior product line manager for Connection Home Solutions. "The home network is actually getting overloaded. More and more people are getting online with devices. Thirty-three percent of households watch Internet video on their television. And of course, you see more online gaming. Up to 70% of Internet traffic after 7 p.m. is video."

WD's new My Net Entertainment Accelerators include four models of dual-band HD routers that range in bandwidth from 300Mbps to 450Mbps using either fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet. One model also comes with up to 2TB of internal storage for storing remotely accessible media.

WD has already been shipping home entertainment products, such as MyBook Live NAS device and WD TV Live media player. With the addition of wireless routers, WD said it is moving in a new direction to create an entertainment "cloud" in the home.

The router lineup is powered by new software from WD, called FasTrack and FasTrack Plus, which analyses data traffic and optimizes network bandwidth to address bottlenecks, according to Chen.

FasTrack optimization technology automatically prioritizes Internet streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, VUDU, YouTube, Xbox LIVE, and Skype and others, in order to create a smoother streaming experience in up to full-HD 1080p quality.

The four new router models include the:

N900: with two 450Mbps channels, seven GbE ports and 2 USB 2.0 ports, FasTrack Plus video streaming ($179)

N750: with one 300Mbps and one 450Mbps channel, four GbE ports, 2 USB 2.0 ports and FasTrack streaming ($119)

The N600: with two 300Mbps channels, four fast Ethernet ports, one USB 2.0 port and FasTrack streaming ($79.00)

The N900 Central: with two 450Mbps channels, automated backup to 1TB or 2TB of internal storage, four GbE ports, 1 USB 2.0 port and FasTrack Plus streaming (1TB model is $299, 2TB model is $349)

Users can store digital media on the M900 Central router, which comes with the option of an internal 1TB or 2TB hard drive. Media stored on the M900 is accessible by any computer through Western Digital's own WD2Go website and with WD mobile apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch or Android smartphones and tablets.

My Net N900 Central comes with WD SmartWare software for Windows backup applications, while Mac users can utilize all the features of Apple's Time Machine backup software. Additionally, any WD external hard drive with SmartWare software can connect directly to a My Net router to wirelessly backup all PC computers in the home.

"When you compare this to regular routers, most do prioritization ... [meaning] you can queue which device gets priority over another," said Martin Proepper, manager of product marketing for WD's Connected Home Solutions. "Our software takes it to another level. The router will analyze all the sessions running through it -- whether video, voice calls, or skype or gaming. This eliminates entertainment pain points."

FasTrack offers 21 spaces or open queues for service applications, such as Netflix. FasTrack Plus also offers an unlimited number of queues for online services. It also performs real-time network traffic analysis.

"We do real-time traffic analysis," Chen said. "We're looking at the traffic. We know what video traffic looks like, which looks different from voice traffic, and what gaming traffic looks like. As soon as you know what your traffic traits looks like, you're able to do something different to make the adjustments in resources for that."


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