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Is that a Wi-Fi media server in your pocket?

Personal music streaming is getting closer

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The distinction between the storage and transmission of stuff – a canyon wide enough to create rival industries in the past – gets more meaningless by the day. Vodafone's next personal Wi-Fi hotspot will have a file sharing built right into the dongle. That's if FCC filings and blog reports can be believed. The next-gen MiFi unit, or personal router, is manufactured by China's Huawei.

The interesting part is that like many of today's 3G dongles, it will feature on-board storage, with room for a Micro-SD slot. It's only a small step to allow personal file sharing or - and this is more likely (and interesting) – local media streaming.

Engadget unearthed the device recently via regulatory technical filings in the US, which you can peruse at the FCC. As with the current first generation MiFi dongles, it supports up to five users.

It's likely to cause alarm among sections of the movie and music industries, since this kind of off-grid media consumption is considered untraceable. (It isn't actually, it's just harder.) But think of the situations where people would happily pay money for such a useful gadget. Nokia currently bundles unlimited music access with its devices as part of its Comes With Music scheme. With a personal media server, so could Vodafone (or even Tesco). Live music streaming is obviously another possibility: until multicasting is turned on, a broadcaster would rather send out one stream rather than five. An intelligent personal router could cache and re-route the bits.

And there are many non-infringing uses – tour guides for museums and galleries, or tuition material for small groups. All of which looks like a number of potential markets could be opened up.

We've been talking about some of these for a very long time. Alas the creators' representatives (which few now disagree are entitled to take their fair cut from media consumption) are still miles behind in thinking about all this. Storage is storage - which means a unit sale; while performance is performance - usually deriving a cut of revenue, or on a per-play basis. ®

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