Airport Express, holding up the revolution?

With Apple's announcement of the MacBook Air they've clearly stated that the future is wire free and that hard wired connections are dead.The MBA Apple has done away with the traditional Ethernet port that's graced almost every previous Apple portable.

Airport Express, holding up the revolution?
With Apple's announcement of the MacBook Air they've clearly stated that the future is wire free and that hard wired connections are dead.

The MBA Apple has done away with the traditional Ethernet port that's graced almost every previous Apple portable. Sure, you can add Ethernet with a US$29 USB-to-Ethernet adapter, but who wants another dongle to lose?

Apple pioneered the original 11 Mbps 802.11b wireless standard and they've consistently advanced wireless technology with their adoption of 54 Mbps 802.11g and most recently, the not-even-ratified 802.11n. 802.11n is available is all of Apple's modern Macs (including the MacBook, Pro and Air) and allows greater range and higher data rates.

Apple's been pretty solid with wireless technology with the exception of the recent Time Capsule/Airport Disk fiasco. I'm still recommending that you boycott Time Capsule until Apple provides Airport Extreme users the same functionality or a technical reason why it can't be done.

My favorite base station is the Airport Express, the diminutive little Airport base station that looks like a MacBook AC adapter. The 'Express is great because a) it's portable, and b) because it streams music wirelessly to my home stereo system via AirTunes.

It's easy to chuck into my computer bag. Traveling somewhere with only Ethernet access? Boom, instant wireless network. Even better is streaming your iTunes music to a set of home stereo speakers. Once you've gotten used to this feature it's almost impossible to live without. I've never understood why Apple didn't add AirTunes to the Airport Extreme though. Isn't the 'Extreme supposed to be their "top of the line?" access point. Or would Apple prefer that we purchase an 'Express too? Ok, ok, I'll stop...

The problem is that the 'Express is stuck at 802.11 b/g. There's no version of it that supports the faster 802.11 draft-n protocol. This means that the minute you put one on your network, all traffic is dumbed down to 802.11g (if you've got it set to g-only), or worse, 802.11b.

802.11n holds a lot of promise, namely a maximum data rate of 248 Mbps (compared to 11 and 54 Mbps), an indoor range of ~70 meters/230 feet (compared to 38 meters/125 feet) and an outdoor range of ~250 meters/820 feet (vs. ~140 meters/460 feet).

I hope that Apple's got an updated version of the Express in the works that supports 802.11 b/g/n? Heck, make my day and make it a US$2 firmware upgrade.

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