Apple patent hints at an ‘iServe’ NAS device/home server

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,448,683) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a “network media device,” which hints at an Apple NAS device/home server, something I’ve long wanted. 

The patent is for a network media device is described that pulls multimedia data from one or more sources (e.g., a multimedia website or a multimedia server computer) at a first time, stores it to long-term storage within the device and transmits the stored multimedia data to one or more designated multimedia playback devices at a second time.

In the patent filing — which goes all the way back to 2006 — Apple notes that, with the increasing capacity and capability of personal computers, as well as improved multimedia interfaces for these computers, it has become popular to use personal computers as a repository for multimedia content, such as songs, movies, etc. Services such as iTunes and the substantially unlimited storage space provided by modern personal computer systems (think Macs) has resulted in an environment where many consumers use theft personal computer as their primary vehicle for obtaining, storing, and accessing multimedia information, 

Because consumers may access their multimedia content at virtually any time of the day, however, this implies that one's personal computer system must be powered and operational at all times. Additionally, consumers may prefer to experience certain media content, particularly video content such as movies, using more entertainment-oriented devices, such as home theater systems, which typically include larger screens and higher fidelity audio systems than personal computer systems. 

Apple says that, thus, it would be beneficial to provide a mechanism whereby a consumer could off-load, over a computer network, specified multimedia content to a playback device that could, at a later time, send the information to conventional entertainment devices such as stereo equipment, televisions, home theatre systems, etc.”

Imagine a range of "iServe" appliances, all based on the Mac mini form factor, that provide media services throughout your home, that are always on, and worked with Siri, Apple’s voice-activated, personal assistant. The media sever would store all your photos, movies, TV shows, music, and more and make them available to all your Macs, iOS devices, and the Apple TV.

Apple has also been granted a patent (number 9,449,012) for “cloud library de-duplication.” It involves systems, methods, and non-transitory computer-readable storage media identifying duplicate media items that occur during a batch upload process from a client device to the cloud media library (think iCloud) and performing media de-duplication and re-mapping of duplicate media items.

Using network-based storage for multiple devices can result in the same or similar files being stored multiple times in the network-based repository. This results in unneeded memory usage and can also detract from a user's experience. 

For example, having multiple versions of the same digital photograph stored in a network-based repository can be tedious to sort through, confusing to the user, and more. Apple wants to eliminate this problem.