Could an 'iHome' be closer when Lion prowls?

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Could an 'iHome' be closer when Lion prowls?

With Mac OS X Lion set to prowl this summer, it's looking like the "iHome" could be closer to being a reality. Now we just need some iTunes/iBooks/Mac App Store sharing, and we truly would have the core for a real home server.

Lion will ship with Mac OS X Lion Server -- which Apple says will make setting up a server easier than ever -- and adds support for managing Mac OS X Lion, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. Now we'll see if Apple will intro some real home server features.

What features? Things like -- as mentioned -- iPhoto and iTunes/iBooks/Mac App Store sharing and collaboration. Perhaps an iDisk for the local server that can also sync with the iDisk on Apple servers. How about the ability to set up the iCal and Wiki servers with templates and services that make it easy for home uses to use? I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
I’ve long hoped for an Apple home server product. A 2010 consumer survey conducted by ABI Research reinforced my thoughts that it would be a very good idea.

The research group found that while most owners of home networks find their equipment works reasonably well, they would be willing to upgrade if that resulted in easier troubleshooting. The conclusion: there’s an opportunity for home network equipment vendors if they can automate some of the commonest diagnostic and configuration tasks.

And who better to do this than Apple?

According to industry analyst Michael Inouye, although nearly 30% of the 1007 respondents to the survey (which was conducted April 15-16, 2009 in the United States) reported some initial difficulties in setting up their equipment, only 11% actually returned products as being “too hard” -- a figure at the low end of the typical range of consumer electronics returns reported recently by the "Wall Street Journal." Most of the problems occurred with wireless setup, suggesting that vendors have an opportunity to make wireless network setup and security a much easier process through software and hardware solutions.

More than half of the respondents indicated that troubleshooting software would be “extremely” or “very” valuable to them. Automating simple tasks such as hardware resets would be even better. The overwhelming majority of those surveyed use their home networks to provide Internet access to more than one computer; printer sharing and (in those under 35) online gaming ran distant second and third.

However that usage pattern -- and the associated setup and maintenance -- will soon become much more complex, as networks increasingly assume the role of distributing multimedia content around the home. And that’s where Apple and the "iHome" can hopefully come in.

-- Dennis Sellers


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