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Coming soon: the 'wonderbox'

Technology lovers will agree that one of the nuisances of having several cool gadgets around the house – camera phones, iPods, laptops, set-top boxes and even NAS servers (if they can be deemed ‘cool gadgets’) – is that your content is spread around all over the place.

We’ve just seen a demonstration of a product that hopes to change all that. Agere Systems plans to launch its BluOnyx Mobile Content Server in the UK this summer, and the company promises it will enable you to keep all that content with you at all times.

Slightly larger than a credit card, the device has apparently been dubbed the ‘wonderbox’ by those that played with prototypes, and although there’s likely to have been a heavy sprinkling of marketing peeps in that select group, it’s hard not to admire the concept.

Back up photos, videos and music to the hard disk- or flash memory-based device using USB, an SD card or via Bluetooth (a Wi-Fi version is coming later this year), and you can keep everything at hand wherever you are. The first units will be available with between 1GB and 40GB of storage, but higher-capacity versions will become available if the product catches on.

The company says that the technology will appeal to various types of users. Children could use it to share photos and music (seven mobile phones can connect at once, allowing a pack of teenagers to listen to the same track through their handsets simultaneously), while Skype fans could use their mobile phone to make Voip calls (the handset would connect to the BluOnyx, which routes the call over the internet via a home network).

Agera said the idea has also received interest from a police force which sees it as the ideal way to allow several photographers to gather and store evidence at a crime scene. Ultimately, it’s likely to be used by people as a backup device: why store photos on your mobile when you can save it to the BluOnyx, accessing it again wirelessly whenever you wanted to look at your favourite snap?

The retail price is likely to be £50 to £130 when it reaches the UK market, although you may not see it under the BluOnyx brand. Agere said it’s in discussions with various companies – mobile phone operators included – that might decide to stick their own badge on it. How operators and retailers explain the benefits of the device remains to be seen – the demonstration we saw made it look extremely simple, but it offers so many features that it’s difficult to pigeon-hole it into one easy-to-understand category. But it’s certainly worth watching out for.

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