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An iCloud Time Machine for the Mac and new AirPort routers? Probably not, but we can hope

As noted by The Mac Observer, rumors are circulating of an iCloud Time Machine for the Mac and new AirPort routers. Those rumors are almost certainly off base, but I’d like to believe ‘em.

The rumors comes from Twitter, and is explicit concerning how Apple is working toward an iCloud-focused Time Machine for Macs and new Airport hardware. They’re based on a FCC filing for a network adapter of some kind. It’s likely that the filing is for some sort of internal device.

However, I’d love to be proven wrong.

iCloud backup for the Mac

One of the things that’s extremely convenient in the Apple ecosystem is the ability to back up your iPhone and iPad files to iCloud. Among other advantages: this makes moving your data to a new smartphone or tablet very easy. Now it’s time for iCloud back-up for the Mac.

Why hasn’t Apple hasn’t already done this? It’s a no-brainer, and could add a little more profit to their ever-growing list of Apple Services.

Currently, my (and probably your) Mac back-up strategy is using Time Machine for local files and iCloud for offsite back-ups of Documents, Desktop, and Photos. However, as a February 2021 9to5Mac has noted: “This strategy doesn’t seem like the best fit for customers in 2019, though. Restoring from a Time Machine backup is fast, but it also relies on a single drive. What if that drive fails or is stolen? Restoring from iCloud means that you still have to reinstall all of your applications manually and set up all of your preferences again.”

I want an iCloud option similar ago that for my iPhone and iPad. Apple offers iCloud storage in different tiers/pricing; I’m willing to pay for the online storage for all Mac files. This would offer double back-up protection: Time Machine and full back-up in iCloud. (Bradley Chambers offers some good ideas on how this would work in the previously mentioned 9to5Mac article.)

If you want to make sure that your files are ultra-protected, off-site backup is necessary. Currently, iCloud storage isn’t sufficient to back up an entire Mac (at least not mine). However, as I said, I’d be willing to pay for more iCloud storage as it would be worth the peace of mind it would provide.

The AirPort line-up

As I’ve said more than once, I really to see Apple bring back its AirPort line. In 2016, Apple discontinued the AirPort Express, the AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time Capsule line of wireless router/backup hardware.

In November 2016 Bloomberg reported that this was a move to try to sharpen the company’s focus on consumer products that generate the bulk of its revenue. The AirPort Express, the AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time Capsule, which cost US$99, $199, and $299, respectively, made up a small slice of Apple’s revenue and were part of Apple’s “other products” category on its financial statements.

In some ways, the announcement came as no surprise. After all, Apple hadn’t refreshed its routers since 2013 and lagged behind in matching new standards from the wireless industry.

Fast forward almost six years: an increasing number of people are working from home, so there’s a need for a reliable, easy-to-implement router, as well as hardware for local back-ups of data in addition to cloud storage. 

I want to see a WiFi 6 compatible AirPort mesh networking system akin to that of the Eero and Orbi with a base station that doubles as a server hub for Apple’s HomeKit to make smart home devices easy to set up and use. 

An Intego blog by Kirk McElhearn from June 15, 2020, perfectly sums up my feelings: A mesh wi-fi system could form part of a broader Apple home network. Imagine if the HomePod, Apple TV, or future Apple in-home devices, acted as a satellite for a wi-fi access point, as well as being a HomeKit hub; this could get more people to buy these media devices, knowing that they would serve more than one purpose.

In addition, the Time Capsule, an AirPort base station with a built-in hard drive, was a great way to ensure that people backed up their Macs. It meant that both desktop Macs and laptops could be automatically backed up without needed to connect an external hard drive. This was not without its quirks, but the technology was seamless. Apple could have extended this backup to iOS devices as well, allowing local backups instead of or in addition to iCloud backups.

Beyond these two elements, it’s Apple’s abdication of the core technology we use to access content on our devices at home that seems surprising.

With all the concerns about privacy and the exploitation of user data, this is an area where Apple could have taken a stance. They could have built their AirPort devices into a mesh wi-fi system, perhaps adding that capability to the HomePod as well, which could give more value to that device. Perhaps Apple has some plans for this in the future, but for now, Amazon has a huge advantage in the smart home market.

As for WiFi 6, it’s better at maintaining steady top speeds while connected to many devices at the same time, even where previous WiFi versions would stumble. Performance in a crowded network is ultimately WiFi 6’s signature feature.

the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.
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