MP3 players. Digital cameras. Camcorders. Digital video recorders.

These products represent the fastest growing segments in consumer electronics. As their adoption continues to accelerate, consumers are discovering two infallible truths: using these products generates a ton of data, and it all has to be stored someplace. According to a recent report from Dallas-based analyst firm The Diffusion Group, the amount of personal content generated by the use of consumer electronic devices is expected to grow from 322 GB per home in 2005 to 1,933 GB in 2010.

Digital photography is a prime example of this growth. With film-based cameras, people developed all of their photos and they could be selective about which pictures they would keep. Digital cameras introduce a way for consumers to enjoy their photos immediately, and because there are no film or processing costs, they find they can snap away and simply accumulate all of their photos on their PCs.

Digital photo collections, music libraries, and personal and downloaded video content have transformed the PC into a digital shoebox. Content is often “locked” there, never to be seen again. As newer CE products are launched and the demand for higher-quality media increases, the average size of every file saved grows exponentially. A typical PC hard drive maxes out at about 150 GB. This brings forth the need for a new storage solution with increased capacity and the ability to facilitate multi-user sharing on a variety of device types.
Adding an external hard disk solves the capacity problem for a single PC user, but it doesn’t address file sharing for homes with more than one PC.

The next step up is a network-attached hard drive. Consumers get the benefit of additional storage space and can save their digital media content away from the PC. In homes with more than one PC, a network-attached hard drive can function as a file server. It also typically provides data protection, back-up utilities, print server functionality, and supplementary expansion options – all nice to have.

However, even though a network-attached hard drive allows you to share content, you still need a PC to access it. Have you ever huddled a group of people around a laptop or a 17-inch computer monitor to look at vacation photos or home movies? Frankly, the home office isn’t the most ideal place to relax or entertain guests.

The digital home concept is nothing new. The playing back of personal media – photos, music, and video files – is transitioning away from the PC in the den to the home theater or entertainment center in the living room. But while many believe that the PC is central to the delivery of media over a home network, there is a smarter alternative that reduces the role of the PC in the digital home entertainment equation.
Enter the network-attached storage (NAS) media server. This new breed of device is shifting the network-attached hard drive, once regarded only as a computer peripheral, into a full-fledged entertainment product. It offers all of the capabilities of a networked drive with the added bonus of making your music, photo, and video files available over the network to any number of PCs and player devices located throughout your home. With a NAS media server and a networked TV or network media player, you can browse and play back all of your rich content on demand from the comfort of your couch using a remote control – not your PC.

Initially, you do need a PC to move your files onto the NAS media server, but once that’s done, you can power down the computer or laptop. With a NAS media server, your content doesn’t need to be stored physically near the television; it can be located in another room or in a closet. A NAS media server is a quiet, low-power-consumption, always-on storage solution that makes your content more accessible than ever before.

The best NAS media servers on the market today provide centralized media distribution, with content management, aggregation, and delivery. They also support multiple devices simultaneously. With a NAS media server, one family member could listen to music in a bedroom while another watches a movie in the living room and a third views a slide show of vacation photos on a PC in the home office.

My company, Mediabolic, develops the entertainment networking software that converts a standard network-attached hard drive into a NAS media server. We sell our media server technologies to OEMs like Maxtor, which offers the Maxtor Shared Storage Plus family of products, and Buffalo, which sells the LinkStation Home Server and the TeraStation Home Server. Another customer, Dedicated Devices, sells NAS media servers to the new home construction and integrator markets. In addition, we partner with silicon manufacturers like Broadcom, Marvell, Intel Storage, and PMC-Sierra, each of which offers turnkey NAS media server reference designs.

Mediabolic’s software enables consumer electronics devices and computers to share content with one another. We offer the industry’s most full-featured foundation for building networked digital media products. Mediabolic’s Linux-based embedded media server is certified by the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), an organization that publishes stringent standards for digital home device interoperability in an effort to simplify set-up and use for consumers. A DLNA CERTIFIED™ media server will work with any other product designed to the group’s guidelines.

Consumers are realizing that their computer hard drives are filling up with photos, MP3s, videos, and more. Because of this, they’re becoming savvier about how and where they can store and access their personal media. In the not-too-distant future, they’ll want their media libraries available to them no matter where they are in the home. They’ll want low-power, always-on media storage. They’ll want solutions that support high-definition video. And they’ll discover that a NAS can function as more than just a centralized back-up location for their data.

The digital home industry has come a long way to make NAS media servers a simplified solution for the average consumer. NAS media servers are evolving into the heart of the digital home, taking the media experience beyond the PC and allowing consumers to enjoy their personal media any time, in any room of the house – all without having to fire up their PCs. Every user in the house benefits, and Mediabolic is the catalyst making this evolution happen.

Daniel Putterman is president and CEO of Mediabolic, Inc. ( Based in San Mateo, Calif., Mediabolic is a leading provider of end-to-end software solutions for connected entertainment products. The company’s technologies can be embedded in products like televisions, set-top boxes, and network-attached storage devices, allowing consumer electronics and PC manufacturers to extend and differentiate their products. Using a standards-based open architecture, Mediabolic’s software has enabled its customers to ship award-winning solutions across diverse platforms to the consumer market.