Before all you Windows users think that this is yet another ‘Macintosh thing’ and skip this article, please read on. This concerns you too Mr and Mrs Widows User! Yes it is a new Apple gadget but, no, it’s not just for Macs. It’s for Widonws PC’s too.

The ‘thing’ we’re talking about is called the AirPort Express, and it promises to start a new revolution in home entertainment by bringing the internet and your digital music library to all corners of your house.

Apple has done it again. In 1999 it pioneered the field of wireless networking (WiFi) by launching their Airport wireless base station, which was one of the first easy to use and affordable wireless solutions available. To browse net without connecting your computer with the phone plug or ADSL modem all you needed was to get yourself a AirpPort base station, connect it to your phone line or ADSL modem, install an Airort wireless card into your computer and off you went. The real magic of wireless becomes real when start browsing the net from your balcony, garden or favourite couch, without needing long wires. Airport also enables several people in one house or office to share the internet connection and also exchange files amongst themselves.

AirPort technology has since developed into AirPort Extreme, which allows a large number of computers to form a high speed wireless network.

Now, Apple have just announced the AirPort Express. The harmless looking, palm-sized white box is actually three extremely useful devices rolled into one: first it is a wireless base station, allowing you to create WiFi network or extend the reach of an existing one. Second it is a wireless printer server. Just plug your USB printer into AirPort Express, and all the computers which are allowed to connect to your network can print wirelessly to the connected printer. No more schlepping your printer from one location to the other.

But the third feature of Airport Express must be its coolest, and that is its ability to receive music played from iTunes (Apple’s digital music player and the interface to the iTunes Music Store) and relay it to your stereo system. The AirPort Express device has a standard stereo Audio connector which allows you to connect it to either full fledged stereo systems or powered stand-alone speakers.

The small size of the AirPort Express, means that you can easily move it to any room where you would like your music to reach. At US$ 129 (in the US), Apple is suggesting that people buy more than one device and throw them around the house, enabling users to select to which one the music should be ‘broadcast’.

The AirPort Express breaks the cage, which was holding digital music libraries prisoner within the confines of desktop PC’s and notebooks. For people who increasingly find themselves listening to their music on their computers, buying a set of good powered speakers was a logical solution. AirPort Express now makes this unnecessary as it enables people to utilize the investment they already made in a home sound system.

After its phenomenal success in both the Mac and the Windows worlds with the iPod portable mp3 player, Apple seems to be taking more steps to secure a place for itself in the digital entertainment world. The AirpPort Express is definitely a step in the right direction.

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