Image via Amazon

We’ve been tracking Time Capsule/Airport shortages reported earlier for about a week. Our sources noted that Airport Express has been plentiful but supplies of TimeCapsule and Airport Extreme have been tightening globally the way products usually do before a refresh.

What we do know is that Apple has been internally testing Time Capsules to cache Software Updates for both Mac and iOS devices.  The way we’ve heard it works is that the new Time Capsule learns which devices connect to it via Wifi.  It then goes out to Apple’s servers and downloads Software Updates for those products.

When the user wants to install the software update, the Time Capsule, which is also the router, routes you to the locally stored update, rather than downloading the whole thing over the Internet.  This works for iOS updates as well, though the updating still happened via the Mac.

Apple’s Mac OSX Servers currently do this for Mac businesses, so the technology already exists externally (though Mac OSX Server just downloads everything – without knowing which devices will be connected).

With Apple’s new iCloud component, we believe Apple has a chance to extend this functionality.  Perhaps Time Capsules could cache parts of your iCloud music locker that you use the most so that it speeds up the streaming process.  It could also cache large documents and files that get used often or even movies and photos you own.

While Macs have plenty of local storage, this would be particularly beneficial for iOS devices which are limited to Flash storage, especially AppleTV which has very little local storage.  As HD video gets bigger (1080P) Apple will need new ways to deliver and store this content.

The system could also work in reverse.  Apple could allow these new Time Capsules to back up your backups to the Cloud.

Will this be part of Apple’s iOS 5/Lion/iCloud announcement?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

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