Taiwanese hardware and motherboard supplier Asustek Computer is to launch a wireless Ethernet-accessed hard-drive in May.

Its WL-HDD will offer fast WiFi access by using 802.11g, which provides up to 54Mbit/s. The actual drive will be a 2.5-inch unit and its capacity is as yet unspecified. The device will cost $150 – about £90. It will have a Web-based management interface through which the drive can be accessed. Files will be freely shareable, have read-access only or be restricted to password-owning users.

Previous attempts to provide wireless-connected hard drives have stalled. Toshiba launched its Bluetooth HDD, called Hopbit, in November 2002. It was a 5GB 1.8-inch hard drive fitted with a Bluetooth adapter and a lithium-ion battery. It could run for six hours of continuous use and had a 200-hour standby mode. The device weighed just 180g and could be bought for £260 in Japan. It is no longer available.

Sony tried with a WiFi-connected file server in early 2003. The FSV-PGX1 was a 20GB hard drive controlled by an embedded Linux system that turned it into a file-server. It could be used by up to 250 people who accessed it by CIFS, if using Windows, or NFS if using Unix/Linux. The WiFi version was 11Mbit/s 802.11b, which meant that file-server access speeds weren’t great, particularly with several people sharing it. Again, it was a light device, weighing in at 320g.

In related news, an Iomega insider told Macworld earlier this month that that company also has plans to introduce a WiFi-enabled hard drive, aimed at home and small-office users who hope to automate data back-up to a drive stored away from the computers, to limit data-loss through potential theft or fire.