In the past, adding an external storage device was slow and cumbersome. Back in the day, users had to turn off the computer, plug-in and screw-in a connector, before turning the computer back on to add an external hard drive.
USB greatly helps the situation by allowing users to plug-in devices without having to turn off the computer. The connectors are smaller and don’t have to be screwed in. Laptop hard drives and USB 2.0 made it even easier by supplying power through the USB port, so these devices didn’t even need to be plugged into a power outlet. The next step is to remove one cable that is left.
This week Seagate announced the GoFlex Satellite, a mobile wireless storage device. This hard drive can stream 3 movies to three different iPads simultaneously over WiFi. It has a built-in battery that can last up to 5 hours. It can be charged/powered through a USB 3 port, which is backwards compatible with USB 2. Seagate already has an iPad and iPhone application available to access files from a GoFlex device. A 500GB version will sell for $199 and should be available later this summer.
This type of wireless device removes the final cable from external drives. While this will be great for any computer, it will be ideally suited for mobile devices like the iPad and iPhone that don’t have USB ports and generally are cable free. The device looks really interesting for iPad users, but the software does not.
These devices require an application to access all the files on the external hard drive. That may be ok for watching movies, but not for real work. Moving files from the device to an application and back again is a headache waiting to happen. The blame for this rests entirely on Apple’s shoulders since iOS applications can’t access files outside of their application. Without an accessible file system, these devices will only see minimal usage. Apple needs to step up with some kind of iOS Finder for these devices to become useful and take off in popularity. Hopefully that is not far off and in iOS 5.
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