Linksys is kick-starting the digital home market with some new high-tech wireless home entertainment gear -- based around Linux.
Linksys is betting that the market for home servers and streaming media is ready to take off, and it wants to go along for the ride. The company’s launched a salvo of home media kit ranging from a sweet-looking server to a range of digital audio gear to stream music around the house.
The centepiece of it all is the Media Hub, which is a souped-up NAS designed to share music, video and photos across the local network and the Internet. Beneath the Media Hub’s shiny skin beats a customised Linux distro – no Windows Home Server here.
The Media Hub comes in barebones and bling editions, but each has a spare drive bay for DIY storage upgrades
It includes an iTunes server and also runs automated backups of Windows machines, although Linksys says that support for Apple’s Time Machine won’t appear until a later update to the device. However, Mac users can access the server via Bonjour. Remote access is via a dedicated Web page reached through www.ciscomediahub.com.
A glam control panel UI puts icing on the Media Hub's customised Linux core
Prices start at US$300 for barebones 500GB box and top out at US$430 for the fully-stocked Media Hub with 1TB, an LCD display and memory card reader – both systems also two USB ports and a spare drive bay for later expansion, although it’s not known if the Media Hub uses any form of RAID for data duplication or disk aggregation. The Media Hub will makes its Aussie debut in mid-February, but there’s no word on local price.
As much as the Media Hub can do on its own, Linksys would really really like you to partner it with their new Wireless Home Audio system. If you’re familiar with the highly-regarded Sonos streaming home audio system you’ll know what to expect – indeed, it seems that Linksys has Sonos in its crosshairs.
The Wireless Home Audio system comprises of a number of mix’n’match components. The Controller (US$350) is a handheld iPhone-shaped device with a touchscreen and thumbwheel for navigating your media library (hosted on the Media Hub or any other DNLA-compliant server) via 802.11n.
The touchscreen Controller lets you navigate your digital media library to choose what's played, and where
The Player (US$300) plugs into your home theatre setup to pipe digital audio through your speakers. The Director (US$450) is a meatier module with an inbuilt receiver and control panel, 100 watt amp and speaker output, while The Conductor (price tba) is a self-contained wireless music system with its own touchscreen control, speakers and CD player.
The Player (above) is a simple 802.11n media receiver to pipe music from the network into your home hi-fi; the more expensive Conductor (below) is an all-in-one unit with touchscreen controller, speakers and a CD player
Building a network of these around your home allows the Wireless Home Audio system to play different music in different pre-determined zones in the house. Linksys is also offering accessories such as a compact iPod docking station (US$80) with inbuilt 802.11n, so that music stored on the iPod can be played in any network zone.