Taiwanese hardware and motherboard supplier Asustek Computer is to launch a wireless Ethernet-accessed hard drive in May.
Its WL-HDD will offer fast WiFi access by using 802.11g, which provides up to 54Mbit/s. The actual drive will be a 2.5in unit and its capacity is unspecified as yet. The device will cost $150 - about £90. It will have a Web-based management interface through which access to the drive will be managed. Files will be freely shareable, have read-access only, or be restricted to password-owning users.
Previous attempts to provide wireless-connected hard drives have stalled. Toshiba launched its Bluetooth HDD, called Hopbit, in November 2002. It was a 5GB 1.8in hard drive fitted with a Bluetooth adapter and a lithium-iron battery. It could run for six hours with consecutive use and had a 200 hours standby mode. The device weighted just 180g and could be bought for £260 in Japan. It is no longer available.
Sony tried with a WiFi-connected file server in early 2003. The FSV-PGX1 was a 20GB hard drive controlled by an embedded Linux system which turned it into a file server. It could be used by up to 250 people who accessed it by CIFS, if using Windows, or NFS if using Unix/Linux. The WiFi version was 11Mbit/s 802.11b which meant that file server access speeds were not great, particularly with several people sharing it. Again it was a light device, weighing in at 320g. Don't bother looking for it on Sony's website; it seems to have disappeared.
Asustek makes 802.11g-equipped motherboards so perhaps it sees a real market for the WL-HDD amongst its OEM customers. On the other hand, it too may have engineers convinced that a radio-connected hard drive is the best thing since sliced bread. With USB 2 and FireWire that's debatable.
Either the devices will be used by PDAs and they have HDD cards available, or it will be used by notebooks and they have PC Card HDDs available, or by file servers and they have cabinets and internal drives and cables and... well, who actually needs a wireless-connected hard drive? If you can think of a use for one post a note in the Techworld forum here.