We live in a world of apps. Apps are everywhere and lie at the core of most of our mobile computing lives--especially when it comes to tablets and smartphones. Lesser known is the ability to install apps on network connected devices, such as network-attached-storage (NAS) products and other equipment.
In the past, this has usually been done through direct installation--one has to download the app and install it through the GUI of the network device. This has been a common practice with the NETGEAR ReadyNAS series of products for quite some time. However, NETGEAR aims to really change how the average user (and power users, too) interact and expand the value of all their networked equipment, including they router itself.
As part of NETGEAR's Developer Program and Smart Network, users are able to use the Genie+ Marketplace to install apps directly to their compatible routers, NAS devices, and other network equipment. Although this service was just revealed, and it is quite new, I'm happy to say that it's not only exciting, but useful and well-executed so far. Let's take a look at how it works.
Make Sure You Have a Compatible Device & Update to Latest Firmware
Currently, only a few devices are supported: the ReadyNAS Duo v2, ReadyNAS NV+ v2, and WNR3500Lv2. NETGEAR's Smart Network FAQ states that every month, additional devices will be added until all routers, gateways, STB, and NAS products are included in the program. This is very exciting for NETGEAR fans!
Assuming that one has a compatible device, it's important to make sure that it's updated to the latest firmware, as the updates for these products enable the Genie+ Marketplace functionality, and are essential for using the service.
Sign Up for a Genie+ Marketplace Account
The first step is to create a username and password to use to the Genie+ Marketplace--a pretty standard process with any "app store" I've used, including the Apple App Store, Amazon App Store, and Google Play store.
Verify Your NETGEAR Devices With the Genie+ Marketplace
Once logged in and ready to go, it's easy to verify and connect the devices in a network to the marketplace. In fact, the Marketplace dashboard will automatically detect and display the compatible devices that you own. You simply have to click on the device and verify via email to get started. I didn't have any problem with this, and verification was virtually instantaneous.
Browse, Download, and Install Apps
For a first version, early on the service, the Genie+ Marketplace is pretty well designed, and while not gorgeous in an Apple-like way, it's very functional. The Marketplace tab lists the apps available for each device in your network.
Clicking the icon for each will open a separate tab with details on the app, what the app does, as well as ratings for the app. I had no problem at all installing a few free apps for my WNR3500Lv2 as well as a paid app for my ReadyNAS.
Using the Genie+ Marketplace Apps
For the WNR3500Lv2, I installed the "Guest Network" and "WiFi Settings" applications. The former allows one to enable and disable as well as configure the guest network for their router remotely, and the "WiFi Settings" app allows the same, except for the main network.
Both work flawlessly, both from local browsers and remotely via my Android phone using a browser--pretty handy if I was out of town and needed to change settings. The Marketplace dashboard acts as a gateway to securely access the router.
For the ReadyNAS app, the Marketplace process again went smoothly, automatically installing the Subsonic software on my NAS. (The Subsonic software allows remote streaming of media files located on the ReadyNAS to other computers, mobile devices, and other compatible devices--even Chumby! I plan on reviewing this separately.)
The NETGEAR Genie+ Marketplace and the Smart Network developer initiative gets my networking geek juices flowing, but in all reality, it's really intended to be a solution for the "everyman and everywoman" user who wants to add cool features to their network devices without having to actually *be* a networking geek.
As it stands, the service is functional and works well. I didn't encounter any bugs, but at the same time the service is still very much in its infancy. I hope there's a lot more to come from third party developers, and that customers see the value in adding these apps to their routers and other devices. I think it's also important that developers who create these apps are compensated, but I'm curious how many users will be willing to fork over the cash--it will be worth it if all the apps work as well as the free introductory apps I tested.
All in all, the Genie+ Marketplace is something all NETGEAR fans and owners should keep their eyes on. I expect that as time goes by and additional devices are added, this could become a regular feature in all networking devices for years to come.