Airport Express seemed to come out of nowhere. Now that it’s here, the obvious question is "why didn’t anyone think of this before?". It takes a series of topical vectors from the Mac world; portability, music, WiFi and sharing, and joins them all together in one neat little package.
In a nutshell, Airport Express is a lightweight, portable wireless access hub. If you have a wired network, you just need to plug an ethernet cable from your router into Airport Express and you’ve got an instant wireless network. If you already have a wireless network, place Airport Express anywhere in the range of your signal and you can piggy-back the signal and boost your network’s range.
That in itself makes it a neat product. But, as they say in all the best infomercials: wait!… there’s more.
Plug a printer into the USB socket and you’ve got instant printer sharing. Plug your stereo into the audio mini-jack and you’ve got instant music sharing.
Some of the possibilities of this technology are immediate and obvious: turn your ethernet-equiped office or hotel room into a wireless hotspot; make your Apple laptop the life and soul of the party by streaming shuffled iTunes tracks.
Further applications are less obvious but potentially more exciting. Is it possible that a WiFi-enabled iPod is on the cards? Throw music-streaming into the mix and you open the door to all sorts of social networking goodness. Combine it with Salling Clicker and you’ve got remote-control for your mac mixing desk.
In the meantime, I can think of some immediate uses. If I have one of these in my laptop bag, it’s going to make hot-desking much simpler at any of the Brighton web companies for which I do contract work. Right now there are surprisingly few companies that have wireless networks. The ability to instantly create one would be very useful.
Outside of the work arena, being able to extend existing networks could significantly improve the quality of my leisure time. Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that the wireless network at Jessica’s family’s house in Arizona didn’t quite extend to reach the patio. All I’d need to do is plug in Airport Express, climb into the hammock, surf the web and gloat to colleagues via iChat.