HP gave the UK press a first look at its MediaSmart Home Server today, ahead of its retail launch on 1st December. The 5.5in wide by 9.8in high server box comes in 500GB or 1TB (terabyte) versions and is designed to be a central storage device for whole families’ media and entertainment content.

Those accessing don’t need to be in physical proximity to the HP MediaSmart Home Server, either. You (or anyone else you furnish with the necessary access details), can log in via a browser-like address such as http:[email protected] and navigate to the photos, music, TV or video you want. It can then be played back on any connected device.

While the Media Home Server is as much a Microsoft initiative as it is an HP one (HP is merely among the first to launch a product showcasing the concept), owners won’t be limited to using it with Microsoft’s Windows Media Player software. Microsoft unveiled the concept of the Home Media Server at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

As well as acting as a central repository for disparate family members and friends to store and access media, it can be used for simple home publishing. For example, HP’s MediaSmart includes Web PhotoShare software so users can identify favourite images and then post them to a shared site for others to view. Since the Home Media Server acts like any other server, physically hosting content, the Web PhotoShare software is able to offer site visitors the option of downloading the

Click here, for details of how it works.

Crucially, HP’s MediaSmart device works with Apple’s iTunes, which will increase its appeal to those with extensive existing music and video clip libraries who don’t want the hassle of having to port it all over to a new library system. HP explains: “Because it acts as a shared server, it does not count towards the number of devices that are allowed by iTunes to play music in the household.

“iTunes sharing starts at the individual PC. When enabled, the iTunes library on the PC is periodically
polled to discover newly added music or playlists. When new music is discovered, the music files are copied to the iTunes library on the HP MediaSmart.”

Nor is the HP MediaSmart server limited to the initial 500GB or 1TB capacity you purchase. HP includes three spare internal 3.5in hard drive bays and can accept five external ones so you can prime the Home Media Server with up to 9TB of hard disk space –even the most avaricious video downloader won’t be filling that in a hurry.

The HP Home Media Server connects to an existing home network and, as well as offering up content locally over the home network, can be accessed and administered via the Remote Desktop protocol.

HP’s MediaSmart Home Server goes on sale in the UK from 1st December.

Click here for our review of the HP MediaSmart Server.

Further Home Media Server products are set for launch by others, including Medion and Iomega, in the coming months.

For further details, see www.hp.com/uk.