A personal server for everyone (continued)

Jeff Jarvis has an updated post on a "place for my stuff" furthering the "stuff as a service" paradigm. On my thought about having a personal server in the home, Jeff goes on to say:

I still don't agree because: (1) Consumers won't understand why they should make a capital investment and it will be a hard sell -- witness the trouble TiVo has had getting going. (2) Consumers hate installing anything. (3) A service is more efficient -- it can offer you a terrabyte of storage but no one will use it all. (4) A service can constantly update itself with new software. (5) If the storage sits in the cloud, you can play your stuff on any device in the home -- or anywhere else -- without having to network anything; if you store your stuff on a home-based server in the den, it's not going to be easy to get to yourself from the bedroom TV. (6) It's possible -- possible -- that an in-the-cloud service can deal better with copyright issues. That is, you can store a legal copy of (or link to) a show or song among your stuff in the cloud and play it anytime anywhere and copy it onto limited devices (a la iPod) but not endlessly duplicate and distribute it.

Jeff makes a number of good points advocating the service over the personal server. I have no doubt that today the service is a better opportunity, and that there are a number of constraints such as what Jeff outlines above. However, in response to his points I believe that technology will continue to change rapidly, prices will continue to drive down, and ease of use will constantly improve (plug and play all-in-one devices will become a reality in a couple of years-just look at the growth of wifi in the home as an example of how fast a new technology can spread). As for the practicality of an in-home all-in-one device, having an IP address for your personal server would allow you to get it from anywhere including your bedroom TV (no different from getting it from the Internet, especially if your home network has a faster connection). So it is not an either or proposition-the personal server idea will take time but it will happen in the next couple of years and be yet another viable option for the consumer. As for what opportunity is bigger, sure the service side will be, but that does not mean a service and personal server are mutually exclusive business models. Why couldn't Comcast give away Mirra personal servers, charge consumers a monthly fee, and have a cloud-based backup in addition to the backup on the home personal server. In my mind, that is probably how this will all evolve.

UPDATE: The personal server space is heating up in real time. Along those lines, Linksys today announced a deal with Maxtor to launch a wireless hard drive for easy network sharing with features similar to the Mirra personal server. While Mirra is a nice product, it will be hard to compete with the Linksys brand and distribution channel.

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9 Responses to “A personal server for everyone (continued)”

  1. A Jun 14, 2004 at 2:45 am #

    The biggest concern with running a home-based IP-addressable server that can be reached over the pulic Internet is security – most ordinary folks have trouble protecting their PCs even when these machines are not supposed to accept incoming connections (though I agree that part of the problem is because average users are downloading applications, some of which happen to be rogue, onto their PCs, whereas they are less likely to install applications (and spyware) on the personal server).

    But I like your idea of comcast providing their users with a server that is backed up in the cloud (and hence also accessible over public internet). In fact, PVR boxes, which already have hard disks in them, could easily double up as storage servers once the their disk capacity exceeds a few hundreg gigabytes.

    If Comcast were to leverage their PVR boxes into becoming storage boxes, it could perhaps even focus on more valuable tools for the consumer such as digital content management tools rather than just pure backup/ storage.

  2. TM Lutas Jun 14, 2004 at 6:01 pm #

    Forget comcast and get the developer to do it, rolling the cost into the sale price of the home. Perfect wifi reception all throughout your property combined with easy maintenance offered to all development residents. And if you’re an expert, you can just stop the monthly fees and do it yourself.

  3. JT Jun 16, 2004 at 5:07 pm #

    You’re not kidding about it heating up – Seagate is offering 500GB to consumers, and I saw a terabyte drive for sale (do not recall where, but can find it again and will post) for $1200. I wonder if: 1) Hard drive storage will continue to advance to the point where terabyte external drives are affordable and attractive. 2) Either way, whether remote access will be important to consumers in 5-10 years.

  4. Jon Lax Jun 25, 2004 at 11:20 am #

    Large hard drives presents a real issue to consumers. With a terabyte or more, regardless of if it sits off-site or in-home, will make current interfaces to these devices unusable. Could you imagine managing 1 terabyte of stored TV content through your Comcast box? Ugh.

    I think that people have demonstrated that they don’t care if data is stored off site. They trust their most personal of data (email) to servers in the sky with little concern.

  5. David Jul 17, 2004 at 1:50 am #

    Is this the 1 TB drive you saw? link to lacie.com

    The company (LaCie) also has a 1.6 TB drive for $2200.

  6. Bill Lennan Aug 2, 2004 at 12:15 am #

    I am a little surprised that no-one beat me to mentioning the .Mac iDisk. It’s an “over the web” place to store your stuff. It pretty much fit’s what you are describing. The only catch is that you’ve got to be using a Mac (but since they’ve cross polinated iTunes, maybe this will follow).

    B-)

  7. Duncan Aug 9, 2004 at 3:19 pm #

    Mind might family front Lawyer, into mind directory whether.

  8. dputty123 Jan 14, 2005 at 6:13 pm #

    I’ve been working on a way to fully integrate dvr recordings, movie collections, music collection that is accessible to all areas of the house, and the more I think about it the more it makes sense to have it all on a home server. While I agree that the better solution is to have this storage “hosted” where the capacity is flexible and limitless, and the software is easily updated, I’m afraid current internet connections are way too slow for this to be plausible. Ahh, I’ll have to wait a couple years for that.

    On a side note, I was at the CES last week and saw this nice little unit which offers 1.2 terabyte of storage for the same cost as the HP home media server.

    link to interact-tv.com

  9. Henry Minsky Jul 6, 2005 at 4:18 pm #

    I wrote some thoughts about this in 2001:

    link to people.csail.mit.edu

    My thinking has changed only a little, I think a portable virtual machine which is openly specified is the best thing for consumers. The key is good applications, and the new Rich Internet Apps may be the best way to go about this.

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