Will Apple Ship Wireless Network Storage?

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.


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?


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