Hoping for an Apple media server

By Felix Salmon
May 26, 2009

There’s one thing I’m not seeing amidst all the speculation surrounding Apple’s announcements at WWDC the week after next, and that’s a simple media server.

Apple’s computers and apps are great if you store all your media (music, photos, video) on the same startup disk where you house your operating system and your applications. But that’s never a particularly sensible way of organizing things. Yet the minute you start moving your media onto an external hard drive or — worse — a network drive, things start getting glitchy.

And heaven forfend you should want to share a music or photo library between different users on different computers on the same network. iTunes doesn’t like that — if one person adds songs to the library, the other computers on the network can go indefinitely without noticing — and iPhoto pretty much bars it entirely: if one person is using a certain library, no one else is allowed access to it. And what happens when your library outgrows one hard drive and you want to extend it onto another? Again, Apple’s apps don’t generally like that one bit.

HP has a media server which claims to be Mac-friendly, but you need a PC to set it up, and of course it can’t solve the software problems endemic to iPhoto and iTunes. The Apple TV is halfway there, but it’s built for video rather than music and photos, and is designed to be used in conjunction with a screen; what’s more, its hard drive is quite small, and it’s not expandable.

So while I fully expect Snow Leopard to include much easier ways to merge media libraries than exist right now, I’d really love a bit of dedicated hardware for such things as well.

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