HP has received favorable reviews for its new 1.5TB MediaSmart Server ex487, a Mac-compatible Windows Home Server that serves as a centralized hub for digital media libraries and connects to social Web services. And its launch has revived rumors that Apple could be improving its Time Capsule network storage device to perform many of the same functions..
Surprisingly, much of the praise centers on HP’s successful integration of its middleware on top of Windows Home Server. (Anyone with a memory as short as a matchstick can recall lousy software being preloaded onto HP machines in the past.) Two other variations of the server that have lower storage capacities are available; the product family’s shared specs are as follows:
· HP Media Collector: conveniently schedules the MediaSmart Server to copy and centralize digital files and libraries from networked PCs
· Media Streaming: remotely streams photos and music to any Internet-connected PC or Mac
· Server for iTunes: centralizes iTunes music libraries on the server for playback to any networked Mac or PC running iTunes
· HP Photo Publisher: easily upload photos to Facebook®, PicasaTM Web Albums and Snapfish(3)
· HP Photo Viewer: allows easy sharing of photos with friends and family
· PC Hard Drive Backup: backs up networked PCs via the Windows Home Server backup feature
· Mac Hard Drive Backup: backs up Macs running Leopard using Apple Time Machine software
· Server Backup: duplicates designated shared folders to a separate hard disk drive
· Online Backup: duplicates designated folders to Amazon’s S3 online backup service for an additional layer of protection
· Smart Power Management: can schedule times for server to go to “sleep” and “wake up,” saving on energy costs
· Processor: Intel Celeron, 2.0 GHz 64-bit. Two gigabytes (GB) of 800-MHz DDR2 DRAM now standard on MediaSmart Server
The drive bays are expandable to over 9TB. With storage being as affordable as it is, I can’t imagine why HP is not providing more storage from the get-go. My old reliable Windows XP Pro desktop has over a terabyte of storage. Then again, I built it, and am more of an early adopter than the average consumer.
The average consumer is also very likely to associate Apple with all things media. Frankly, Apple has needed to make the Time Capsule a more attractive product. Customers that are savvy enough to back up their data are likewise savy enough to know that there are some pretty cool storage alternatives. Rumored new Time Capsule features such as MobileMe support woud differentiate it from HP’s offering.
Other rumored upcoming Time Capsule features include a shared iTunes library databases for music and video, facilities to share media among Apple devices both at home and over the Internet, file-sharing, and back ups that can be remotely initiated. It may also provide for multiple hard drive configurations.
If I were an Apple customer, I would not switch back. If I was thinking about making the jump from PC to the Mac, it would probably take more than HP’s media server to stop me. In that scenario, the only other element that work really in HP’s favor would be price: The HP servers are relatively inexpensive, with the ex487 starting at $749.
That said, Apple could throw PC manufacturers a real curve ball by shipping souped up Time Capsules with Macs for a reasonable price–if not free with some higher-end models. With HP upping the ante, Apple will have to polish its products that much harder.