The wireless hard drive was Seagate's Wireless Plus ($199.99, Amazon), an external HDD built to be compatible with today's mobile devices. The idea is that you load it up with all the media you otherwise couldn't fit onto your iPhone or iPad and carry both devices around with you, so you never have to choose between HD movies and photos of your loved ones again.
The Wireless Plus packs a 1TB hard drive, Wi-Fi and USB 3.0 connectivity and an internal battery providing up to 10 hours of operation into a small portable package. Explaining to the crowd assembled to gawk at the device, the attendant said it can support up to eight simultaneous users. With eight people connected, three of those can stream HD movies from the device, while the other five can still entertain themselves by browsing pictures and streaming music.
It comes with its own app, which also allows users to dump content from an iPad or iPhone's internal storage directly to the drive. That's not going to work for content purchased through iTunes, but it will work for things like photos and videos taken with the device.
Seeing the Wireless Plus in action is honestly underwhelming, but only if you don't think about what's going on. It's an app streaming content from a wireless hard drive. It stalls a bit initially, likely as it's buffering, but then it plays smoothly. It's even AirPlay-compatible, allowing you to stream content from the drive to a device and push from that device to an Apple TV. It's not flashy and astounding; it's a hard drive, but a very competently realized one.
And yet it had drawn a crowd, albeit a thinning one for the moment. I stepped forward to ask my own questions. Yes, the Wireless Plus might be fine for streaming content from a drive, but could your iOS device stay connected to the Internet while doing so, since it has to join the Wireless Plus' network in order to access content?
There's this look that tech attendants get when they've been flummoxed, a sort of resigned acceptance that ? for one brief moment ? you've pierced the marketing speak and cut to the quick. I could have sworn I saw that look right then.
"Good question," he replied, "it used to be that you couldn't do that, but we made it this year so that the hard drive can join an external wireless network and share its connection with any mobile device accessing content from it."
To sum up: one terabyte of storage, accessible by up to eight simultaneous users. Ten hours of battery life, and the ability to share its Internet connection so that mobile devices stay connected while browsing content. Works with iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire devices, as well as Samsung Smart TVs. It's got a couple of awards, too: Best of Show at Macworld, as well as Best Innovation for Computer Accessories at this year's CES. Both of these seem pretty well deserved from what I've seen of it in operation.