Personal mobile content server unveiled

It looks like one of the iPhone rumours might just have come true. Remember the one about the iPod with a WLAN client and some sort of file sharing capability? Well, chipset firm Agere Systems unleashed its BluOnyx Mobile Content Server on Tuesday, and that is only one of its possible applications.

The concept is simple. Like an iPod, the gadgets is essentially a stylish wrapper around a great lump of storage, either Flash memory or an ultra thin hard disk depending on size, with some processing chips under the hood.

But the difference is precisely in the chips – this device has a 600MHz ARM processor and a fully fledged operating system, VXWorks, as well as networking features, Bluetooth, wifi, USB and an SD card slot.

Further, there is nothing proprietary about it. It is a fully open platform that supports C, C++, Java, Perl, and Python. All it lacks is a user interface of its own, but this is provided by whatever device it is connected to. That could be anything from a PC to any mobile phone that supports Java, which means almost any phone.

The possibilities are numerous. A few apps are already included, such as a file manager and media player capable of streaming content from the device to up to seven other users wirelessly. But the plan is to rely on the creativity of the developer community.

“It’s intended to be an open environment that could unleash the creativity of anyone who needs a platform,” said Agere VP of strategic storage marketing, Nik Barham. An SDK (Software Development Kit) is already available.

Pricing is by capacity, in a range between £50-£125. Devices between 1 and 12GB will use Flash, while those between 12 and 40GB will use a 1″ Hitachi HDD and those up to 60GB a 1.8″ HDD from the same manufacturer.

Despite the problems some vendors have had with network operators and large mobile storage devices, Agere claims to be in discussion with multiple carriers about selling the device. There will be no operator subsidy, but Barham expects that “in the beginning, the volumes will be carrier-heavy.

“When we talked to the device makers, they said the carriers didn’t want this kind of functionality on a phone – they don’t want to have to subsidise it,” he said. “They’ll shift the cost to the customer”.

The gadget is expected to hit the streets in the summer, Agere said.

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