Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What would an Apple Home Server look like?

No one has really be able to bring the home server concept to the masses yet. Microsoft's product is probably the best offering so far but it's completely useless if you don't run Windows (of course, what did you expect?) I've always wanted to see Apple start connecting the dots between the cloud and multiple computers. It's a challenge that is primarily user interface based. The technology is easy -- making it understandable is the real problem.

If you haven't used OSX Server before it's basically OSX with some added functionality but with massively improved management utilities. The GUI setup tools are fantastic -- there's nothing else like it. It even includes a Dashboard widget for monitoring your OSX Server. It has the same attention to detail you'd expect from Apple. The problem is... very few people use it. It's a product targeted towards business but business runs Windows and, increasingly, Linux. I can't imagine Apple sells many OSX Server boxes. There just isn't a market for it.

Since Apple is primarily a consumer oriented company it makes a lot of sense to do a home server. More Macs being sold mean more multi-Mac households. Unless you want to manually move files there's really no good solution to keep all your data synced and backed up. It's even worse when you put an iPod or iPhone into the mix. Apple needs a solution for this problem.

Here's what I'd want from an Apple Home Server:
  • Centralized iTunes & iPhoto libraries.
  • Centralized mailboxes in Mail.
  • Multi-user support
  • TimeMachine server
  • Full Networkable home folder support as an option. (most people would be better off with syncing probably)
  • OSX network install. (excellent for MacBook Airs, forth coming Apple netbook, tablet, etc)
  • Drobo-ish setup -- easy to add, redundant, storage.
  • 802.11N + GigE + integrated router.
  • Integrate with MobileMe -- it acts as a sort of localized version of MM. It would be accessible via the internet as an iDisk/WebDAV share. MM could act as a cache -- your most recently & commonly accessed files, and as a fall-back if your home server was offline.
  • Bundle free MobileMe subscription with it.
  • Different SKUs. 2 bays, 4 bays, 8 bays, hard drives, no hard drives.
  • New feature in iTunes to connect to remote home server -- so you could be using your work computer for example and quickly sync to your home computer and grab a couple albums you forgot to sync earlier.
  • AFP, SMB, FTP, NFS (it's all built into OSX already so why not?)
  • Full web UI so you can use the device without installing extra software.
  • Reasonably priced cloud storage so the average person could backup everything to the locally and to the cloud.
  • ScreenSharing -- with iPhone support. So you could run legit OSX apps on the home server.
  • Full access to it as a regular Mac. If I want to install EyeTV and a tuner it would become a pretty slick networked DVR device.
So basically you're looking at something which is like a Mac Mini in terms or processing power with a larger case to accommodate more storage and a customized version of OSX Server to go along with it. Probably in the $800 to $2000 price range depending on storage.

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