Hewlett-Packard is introducing its third generation of MediaSmart home servers, with more features for Mac users and multimedia-philes.
The EX490 and EX495, which run heavily-modified versions of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Home Server operating system, will let users control the server from a Mac using Microsoft's Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac 2.
The new MediaSmart servers can also work with Apple Inc.'s Time Machine backup software to do “bare metal recovery” of a crashed Mac computer using data stored on the home servers.
“A lot of consumers are buying Macs. So while HP may be competing against Apple in the PC space, it needs to pitch the MediaSmart as Mac-friendly,” said Roger Kay, an analyst with EndPoint Technology Associates Inc.
HP's MediaSmart EX490 home server.Available for pre-order today, the EX490 and EX495 can also be set to automatically collect music and video files from desktop and laptop PCs on the same network, and then stream them out to Mac and Windows PCs — and even users' iPhones, said Charles Shilling, a product manager for HP.
The new EX490 with single-core Intel Celeron 2.2 GHz CPU and 1 TB of storage starts at $549. The 2.5 GHz Pentium dual-core-equipped EX495 with 1.5 TB of storage starts at $699. It is aimed at users who want the extra horsepower for things such as automatically converting videos, including unprotected DVDs, into the MPEG-4 format, Shilling said.
HP launched its first MediaSmart servers in November 2007.
It released its second-generation EX485 and EX487 servers last December. Those were the first to allow users to back up data from Macs as well as Windows PCs. They could also stream music stored on them to Apple's iTunes running on Windows or Mac PCs.
Kay says that the home server category has probably “underperformed” the expectations of HP, which has been the most aggressive vendor in the space.
“It's a great idea, but people are scratching their heads,” he said. “[Streaming videos and songs] has been talked about for a long time, but most people still haven't figured out how to do it.”
It's easier to stream media to PCs running Windows 7 than those running XP or Vista, said Kay. The new operating system's release should thus help boost sales of MediaSmarts and other Windows Home Servers, he said.