Google wants to be your home network's one-stop-shop with its just announced OnHub. The OnHub bundles together a Wi-Fi router, smart home device bridge, Bluetooth Smart Ready, and a network management system in a cylinder packed with antennas and enough smarts to help keep your network in top shape—and it sounds like a really great idea that Apple should've already jumped on.
Google's OnHub handles your Wi-Fi network and smart home
Google says OnHub automatically configures itself for your network and then monitors what's happening so it can dynamically change Wi-Fi channels to give you the best performance. It has its own built-in security features to help keep bad guys out of your network, doesn't require an IT certification to manage.
OnHub also supports smart home platforms that use Bluetooth Smart Ready, Weave, and 802.15.4 wireless connections so it serves as your home automation bridge. That means the little boxes you add to your network so the smart lights, smart switches, and other sensors you use from various companies can go away. Instead, they'll all communicate through the OnHub.
Want to make sure specific network devices always have priority? Like maybe your streaming media server? OnHub lets you do that, too.
Google also offers an iPhone and Android app for monitoring your network and connected devices, running network diagnostics, and to get help when something really does go wrong.
In essence, Google designed an all-in-one wireless hub that just works. You know, something you'd expect Apple to do—but didn't. Instead, Apple gave us nice hardware in its AirPort Extreme Base Station, but the companion software is limited and feature-limited.
Setting up an AirPort Base Station isn't a difficult process, but it isn't as drop dead simple as Google promises for OnHub. AirPort Base Stations also don't self monitor to avoid interference from other networks, they don't run self diagnostics, and they don't let you prioritize network traffic. Apple simply gave us a nice piece of hardware that's really a one trick pony.
Google's OnHub is available for pre-order now for US$199.99 and will be in stores in a few weeks. Apple's AirPort Extreme is priced at $199, and feels dramatically overpriced in comparison.
Apple updated the AirPort Extreme in June 2013, so it's been more than two years since its last revision. Apple hasn't been a strong player in the networking game for some time and that needs to change or face becoming irrelevant in the Wi-Fi market. Maybe Apple needs to copy Google this time around.