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With so many Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices on the market today and multiple computers in the home and office, the most common way to share these devices is to set up a Local Area Network (LAN). The only recent alternative was to cable-swap, or drag the devices back and forth between the computers. A USB MultiSwitch hub does not require a LAN and eliminates the hassle of carrying devices from one machine to another.
The first USB MultiSwitch hub will hit stores in summer 2006, manufactured by chipmaker SMSC. The USB MultiSwitch hub is a “stick” of multiple USB ports internally configured to a network switch. The networking architecture imbedded in the MultiSwitch hub allows two LAN-less host computers to share multiple USB devices simultaneously.
A USB MultiSwitch hub can detect data flow from each host and answer requests discriminately, sending the appropriate data to the proper host. For example, a laptop and desktop can simultaneously access a portable USB hard drive connected to the hub without need of a LAN. The networking required is carried out transparent to the user in the hub itself.
Other devices that can be shared using the MultiSwitch hub include digital cameras, camcorders, printers, memory sticks, flash card readers, scanners, DVD players and more. Virtually anything that runs on a USB port can be connected to the MultiSwitch hub to be fully accessible to either host computer. In addition to computers, the MultiSwitch hub will also work with TVs equipped with a USB interface. It can therefore be a great multimedia or gaming tool.
The introductory USB 2524 MultiSwitch hub features two upstream ports, for two hosts, and four downstream ports for up to four USB devices. Reported specifications from SMSC list speeds of up to 12 megabits per second per port. The USB MultiSwitch port is compliant with the USB 2.0 standard, and only requires a USB 2.0 driver to function. Hosts will detect the device as a standard, non-switching USB hub. If successful, more products along these lines will undoubtedly follow from SMSC and other manufacturers.