Patent hints at an Apple NAS/personal cloud device

I’ve long wanted Apple to make its own NAS/personal cloud server device. Now the company has been granted a patent (number 9,876,830) that shows the company has at least considered the possibility.

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The patent is for a “network media device” that pulls multimedia data from one or more sources (e.g., a multimedia website or a multimedia Mac), stores it to long-term storage within the device. It then transmits the stored multimedia data to one or more designated multimedia playback devices when requested by the user.

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. Particularly with music, the increased popularity of storing multimedia information on a personal computer has resulted in a variety of products and services to serve this industry.

Additionally, services have been developed around these devices, which allow consumers to purchase music and other multimedia information in digital form suitable for storage and playback using personal computers, including; for example, iTunes.

In the patent, Apple notes that services such as iTunes and the substantially unlimited storage space provided by modern personal computer systems has resulted in an environment where many consumers use their 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. 

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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. For these reasons, Apple says 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. 

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.