Apple has been releasing new WiFi routers every now and then since 1999. While the AirPort Express and AirPort Extreme could use an update, don’t hold your breath for it. According to a new report from Bloomberg, the company has disbanded the team that was working on wireless routers. Engineers are now working on other projects.
The AirPort product line probably doesn’t drive a lot of revenue, and it looks like Apple would rather focus on its more popular products. The company has done the same thing with other products, relying on third-party manufacturers for external displays.
And yet, it’s still a bit sad that Apple isn’t going to try new things when it comes to WiFi routers. The first AirPort Express in particular is one of my favorites. It was a tiny device that you would plug directly into an outlet. It has three ports, an Ethernet port for internet connectivity, a USB port for a hard drive or a printer, and a headphone jack to plug in your speakers.
After that, you could play songs in iTunes and stream them to your speakers in the other room. Your computer wasn’t using Bluetooth — Bluetooth was nowhere near as good when it comes to music streaming in 2004. Your computer would stream lossless audio files, and the AirPort Express had a tiny digital-to-analog converter.
Back then, Apple called this technology AirTunes. And it paved the way to AirPlay, the popular video and audio streaming protocol on your Apple TV, Mac and iOS device.
Apple also put a hard drive into your WiFi router with the Time Capsule. This way, you could back up your data using Time Machine but you wouldn’t have to plug a hard drive to your laptop. The integration was so seamless that it made you forget about backups. Again, that was before iCloud and Dropbox was just getting started.
Now that companies like Eero and Google with the Google Wifi are trying to make wireless routers interesting again, Apple had two possibilities. The company could either invest to make a new iteration of the AirPort devices, or it could pull out of this market. It looks Apple chose the latter.