EMC aims for customers' living rooms

Storage vendor plans push into consumer market

While EMC's CEO, Joe Tucci, has acknowledged in the past that he wants to begin selling products to the small office, home office and consumer marketplace, at the recent EMC World conference he began revealing specifics on how the company plans to execute on that strategy.

"EMC will go down market," he said. "We'll play at the big enterprise accounts. We'll play in the medium-sized commercial accounts. We'll play in the SMB business. We'll want to play in the SOHO and play in the consumer [market]." To that end, Tucci said the company will begin building branding around consumer sales, but that the company will walk and not run into it.

"This year I'm probably not going to spend tens of millions of dollars to do that, but you'll see us begin," he said.

EMC will use products and services from recent acquisitions or from proposed buyouts, such as Iomega, as well as software currently under development, to supply consumers and small home businesses with a central online repository for mobile access to all their data.

In the not so distant future, EMC hopes to be selling Iomega's small removable hard drives and NAS devices running on its Linux-based operating system, LifeLine, for consumers, while also offering them online storage capacity and backup through its Mozy online backup and storage service, which EMC acquired last year when it purchased Berkeley Data Systems.

Over the next several years, Tucci said, he believes the average middle-class home will have up to a terabyte of data stored on electronic devices. He wants to provide mobile access to it through an online "computing cloud" based on Web 2.0 hardware, software and services. Part of that technology will come from EMC's purchase of cloud computing start-up Pi.

EMC also plans to announce the availability of its Web 2.0 software, code-named MAUI, this year. The announcement will coincide with a larger marketing push for its Web 2.0 hardware, a clustered network-attached storage (NAS) device code-named HULK.

"We want to have a play in the digital home, the digital small business in the future. No matter where you travel, you have access to that data," he said. "I know this is a great opportunity and one I want to capitalise on."

Earlier this year, EMC announced its intention to acquire Iomega, whose business products include network attached storage (NAS) equipment.

Iomega CEO Jonathan Huberman says his company can "inject the consumer DNA" that EMC is looking for in order to expand its reach.

"We've been around for 28 years. While we have a very strong brand, equally if not more important is that we have very strong channels," Huberman says. "That's what we bring to this equation."

For example, Iomega recently released storage device called "ScreenPlay HD", which offers up to 500GB of capacity for transferring music, photos or downloaded movies from a PC to a digital video recorder (DVR) to be played on a high-definition television. The storage device has a USB port for the computer and an HDMI port for the DVR, and, while not sophisticated, Huberman said it's "the best solution" right now for performing digital movie transfers. Intel also recently released their version of the home server, called the Entry Storage System SS4200-E home NAS server.

Iomega is also selling a 1TB, two-drive wireless NAS device called the StorCenter Wireless NAS drive that Huberman says is tailored for downloading and transferring iTunes music using Gigabit Ethernet. Huberman uses the ScreenPlay HD and the StorCenter Wireless NAS drive as good examples of where storage products will play in the consumer market of the future. He points to a consumer sales opportunity within big corporations as well, namely that every IT worker is also a potential retail technology consumer.

"Every reader Computerworld has is a consumer as well," he says. "But the way they look at life, as opposed to the way a big business looks at life, is a very different thing. Ease of use is critical. Price is obviously critical. And look and feel is very important."

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