Not Quite Sold on iTunes Home Sharing

There were really only two items out of Apple’s “It’s Only Rock & Roll” event earlier this week that managed to capture my attention. First off, where the heck was the iPod Touch camera? Several credible leaks, including compelling imagery, suggested photographic and video functionality was an inevitability. File this one under don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

Next up is Home Sharing, introduced within the refreshed iTunes 9. (See Engadget’s brief video overview above.) This feature allows you to copy purchased iTunes content amongst five authorized devices in your home. It’s surely a simpler method of interaction than sneakernet-ing files around. However, Home Sharing does nothing to overcome the single iTunes Store account limitation. And, in fact, now that Apple’s tracks are DRM-free, Home Sharing is actually more restrictive than simply copying music via a USB stick. Perhaps Home Sharing 1.1 will allow Melissa and I to link our iTunes accounts in a ‘family unit’ sort of way.

Another perceived limitation was the implication that other computers must be powered up to access all home media. However, folks with Macs running Snow Leopard and an Airport Extreme or Time Capsule now have Wake on Demand capabilities. In our household, that should allow Melissa to grab tunes from my laptop (when it’s home). But I still wouldn’t be able to access her iTunes library when her Windows 7 machine is shut down.

Ideally, Apple would bring true iTunes server functionality/support to NAS devices. Even if limited to Time Capsule, that’s the sort of hub & spoke model many of us seek: A central home repository of media files, with family members creating their own individual, custom playlists to stream or mirror on demand – not just to computers, but to iPods/iPhones and AppleTV as well. I’ve gone down this path on my own, with limited success. What we really need to succeed is Apple’s philosophical and technological blessing.


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