Personal cloud options for iOS users grow with Hitachi G-Connect

Hitachi(s hit) unveiled its G-Connect wireless storage drive that can also act as a router, designed for use with mobile devices like the iPad (s aapl) and iPhone. Users can stream media stored on the G-Connect to up to five devices over a local wireless network created by the drive, using an iOS app that will be available free on the App Store when the G-Connect launches in July for around $200.

The new Hitachi offering joins the Seagate GoFlex Satellite (s stx) as yet another device that is trying to make external storage relevant to user who are increasingly using mobile devices to consume content. Like the GoFlex, the G-Connect offers 500 GB of storage, and the ability to simultaneously stream to multiple devices. The G-Connect offers some nice advantages over the GoFlex, however, like the ability to stream to up to five devices, instead of just three, and an Ethernet port that lets it plug into a wired Internet connection and act as a wireless access point. But it also carries a major drawback: it lacks an internal battery, so unlike the GoFlex, you’ll have to plug the G-Connect into a power source if you want to use it, which for some might limit its utility as a mobile support device. Still, when a power source is available, as they often are on trains, planes and coffee shops, it should greatly expand the media library available to your iOS devices.

When iOS 5 arrives, iPads and iPhones will finally be cut loose from their PC tethers. That will mean that users can depend on them as their only computing devices, if they wish. But owing to the limited local storage options on iOS devices, they might run up against space constraints when doing so. iCloud aims to help with some of that, by making music, apps and books available on-demand from Apple’s servers, so that you can delete them as needed when you’re running out of room, and grab them again when you need them. But that solution depends on relatively unfettered access to an active Internet connection. Users without mobile data plans for their devices, or those with caps like Verizon’s (s vz) new tiered plans will have a harder time taking full advantage of a cloud computing future.

Devices like the G-Connect and the GoFlex could be just the start of a flood of supplemental hardware designed to provide a local alternative remote streaming for users who either don’t have the bandwidth to take advantage of the latter, or who’d rather own their content than rent access to it from content providers. External local wireless storage also offers more privacy, which is a selling point for some.

While I expect the general thrust of computing in general to continue to favor remote cloud options, I think the personal cloud stands a good chance of developing at a similar pace at the same time, albeit on a smaller scale. Physical storage is cheap and getting cheaper, while the same can’t necessarily be said for broadband access. As Apple and other device manufacturers move to make the cloud the centre of its universe, it’s only natural that a percentage of consumers will opt to find an alternative centre for their own gadgets that allows them to remain autonomous and possibly save money.