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Summary:

Those of us who enjoyed the Apple TV this weekend know that one of the first things the Apple TV does is link to a master iTunes Library on the same wireless network and offer to sync the data between your computer and its hard drive. […]

Those of us who enjoyed the Apple TV this weekend know that one of the first things the Apple TV does is link to a master iTunes Library on the same wireless network and offer to sync the data between your computer and its hard drive. In order, it backs up your Movies, then your TV shows, Music, Podcasts and Photos.

If you have enough space on the Apple TV (standard size: 40 GB), then you can back up everything. If you don’t, from your iTunes, you can select what media is copied.

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Warning: Speculation Ahead
This got me thinking. Apple, without announcing it as such, just delivered a wireless network storage device, which if they chose to do so, could serve as centralized backup for anybody’s home network, were it not tied to iTunes, although the 40 GB limit is clearly too small. By delivering a small-enclosure device with a hard drive and a wireless base station, and making it drop-dead simple to configure, they have the key elements needed to jump into this market. And guess what? The Apple TV works with PCs and Macs, so Apple could play into the entire market here, not just the single digit percentage that uses Macs at home.

For most families, a few hundred gigabytes should be more than enough storage to backup all the home desktops. If you look at other market players, like Iomega, who offers 500 GB and 1TB network storage devices for $349 and $699 respectively, or Lacie, who offers network storage from 250 GB to 2TB, they have Apple beat on a gigabyte level and price per megabyte, but not likely beaten in simplicity, and certainly not in style or Mac OS X integration. Additionally, Apple’s .Mac Backup service could be easily integrated.

The signs are all there. The Apple TV offers wireless network storage today, for very specific tasks. If Apple opted to put in some low-cost, low RPM, high-density SATA drives (e.g. 250 GB) and distributed them in the same form factor, integrated with Mac OS X and .Mac, while also delivering Windows support, it could be a brand new product line. Just look what they’ve done with MP3 players and the phone. What could they do here?

  1. What about the new Airport Extremes, they have a connection for a whopping big hard drive so Apple already has a network storage option.

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  2. I always thought with next generation HD should be Hybrid with high desnsity ( 300+ GB / Platter ) and very low RPM (hence lower power). Since transfer speed is a non issue with network drive. ( Most NAS dont even output more then 40MB per seconds and Wireless network cant even mantain this speed ) Apple has a great chance of introducing an Apple NAS that backs up and store all our music in one place.

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  3. Apple ALREADY has a network storage device (besides the Xserve/RAID), the New Airport does a fantastic job providing network storage for the whole family (AirDisk). We added a 300gig USB drive to the USB port on the AirPort, after playing with the settings, adding all the family members. Each user nows has a roaming home folder, a backup folder and a shared folder. The shared folder is where we put home movies and photos that we share. Works perfect for individual iPod/iTunes users… AppleTV does not see AirPort/AirDisk drive, it only sees iTunes Shares, so it does not allow the viewing of these movies. (AppleTV doesn’t do a very good job with photos except as SCREEN SAVER )…

    But I totally agree, with upcoming Time Machine Apple needs a NAS device. And if you listen closely to the Apple ads, I feel Apple will be adding more NON-Computer devices to its line of products inclluding a NAS. Not everyone has a Xserve to serve out huge Music/Video/Photo libraries, but everyone is going to need one!! (hint, hint)…

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  4. Seeing how the new Airport Extreme specifically advertises the option of wireless network storage via its USB port, and assuming that Apple doesn’t want to market their own external HDD (honestly, why?) I think we already have Apple’s wireless network storage solution right in front of us. I don’t think AppleTV will have anything to do with it; not more than any other device will, anyway.

    What’s going to make Airport Extreme and its attached USB drives more popular is Time Machine and possibly other Leopard features. I don’t think there’s anything more to Apple’s storage plans than that.

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  5. To #1, #3 and #4, it’s clear Apple can use a USB connection to Airport Extreme to give you AirDisk, but it does require 3rd party storage. Why not have an Apple branded device? I bet most people here would rather pay 20% more for an Apple device than a 3rd party device with the same capacity.

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  6. The Airport Extreme only lacks a media server function to provide the stored content to the AppleTV.
    Or : the AppleTV lacks the ability to mount net volumes as source for media.
    And: If there was just a way to remotely setup, manage and control these devices with the IPhone, the circle would be complete.

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  7. Louis:

    Hard drives are a very, very “blah” product category. Apple doesn’t make their own for the same reasons they don’t make their own digital cameras or camcorders, scanner, or printers. They are problems well solved by other companies and with little incentive for Apple.

    A good way to think about it is, what would the ad look like? “AppleDrive – store 80gb worth of data”?

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  8. “The Airport Extreme only lacks a media server function to provide the stored content to the AppleTV. Or : the AppleTV lacks the ability to mount net volumes as source for media.”

    Do what I did – put your iTunes library on your Airport Extreme-attached drive. Voila.

    Apple’s strategy is definitely not for AppleTV to “mount volumes” – boring! It connects to iTunes libraries. Keep those where you want.

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  9. FWIW, the 500GB Western Digital My Book Pro has the same aluminum-like finish that the MacBook Pros do. Best of all, it supports USB 2.0, FW400 and FW800 and is less than $250. I’ve been itching to use mine on the Airport Extreme, but I’ve already got an 802.11n router.

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