January 08, 2004

USB Server Will Network Your External Devices

Today at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Keyspan announced their upcoming USB server.

Per the press release, the server will connect USB devices to a Mac or PC via a wired or Wi-Fi Ethernet network, and will ship in late Q1 2004 with an MSRP of $129. In essence, it will share USB printers, scanners, hard drives, and more. The client PCs will need to be running Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Mac OS X 10.2.8 or higher. Mike Ridenhour, president of Keyspan, states "its most innovative use may be to enable Wi-Fi-based laptops to connect to remote USB devices."

If it works as hyped, it would save the time of disconnecting, reconnecting, and moving devices between PCs. Thinking aloud, this would probably work well as long as the OS has the particular USB device drivers built-in. Otherwise, I can see where it might be necessary to install the requred drivers or end-user programs on the various client PCs for it to work. For example, scanners usually need additional software installed to realize their full use. And of course, with printers and scanners, you'd still need to physically go over to them to work with the hardcopy. This driver issue probably explains why only Win 2000 and XP are supported, since they have more device and network drivers built-in than their predecessors.

Basically, I see the best use for the server in cutting the cords and going completely wireless. However, unless the server setup is a breeze and problem-free, many people just might find it easier to simply move and plug in the USB device by hand. After all, that was one reason why USB was created, to make it easy to hot-swap devices.

Another option would be to use Bluetooth-enabled devices instead, but I still hear from people who've run into connectivity and communication issues with it, mostly due to vendor differences in the BT implementation. As with all CES-prompted press releases, it will be interesting to see if reality lives up to all of the hype on this one.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard