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Analyst: SMB NAS products should cozy up to the TV

If you’ve been paying attention to recent storage product news, you may detect a distinctly consumer-ish flavor. Several vendors have recently redoubled efforts to reach the ever-elusive small business, home office and tech-savvy consumer. So far this year, the wave of new products has included EMC’s Iomega StorCenter ix4 product, Fabrik Inc. systems that were acquired by Hitachi GST, Seagate Technology’s BlackArmor NAS, and various ReadyNAS systems from NetGear.

One analyst who follows the consumer space closely says these products may be hitting the market at just the right time, but vendors still may need to tweak their approach to get the attention of shoppers at Best Buy.

“Digitization is reaching critical mass” in the home and small-office market, said ABI Research digital home group senior analyst Jason Blackwell in an interview with Storage Soup this week. Blackwell recently authored a market research report declaring that consumers are growing comfortable with home networks and network-attached devices. Products have been refined to offer easier installation and more features, and digital multimedia has become mainstream for users who want to keep music and photos on home networked storage products.

Still, storage vendors and customer may need help finding each other. Retailers don’t always provide that yet.

“There needs to be continued education in this market, of retailers as well as consumers,” Blackwell said. “Usually [home storage systems] end up at Best Buy in the networking section. They really need to be located closer to the TVs” so consumers associate the storage boxes with what they’re good for – streaming multimedia. In the networking section, they’ll be mixed in with routers and other devices.

“Typically stores have really good salespeople for televisions, but the same cannot always be said about the networking section,” he said. “Customers are kind of left on their own.”

The products themselves can get closer to other devices as well, Blackwell said, in more ways than one – through integration and automation of media adapter cards to more easily network with those devices, and through attention to industrial design to look more like them. “Products need to look good, and provide a good overall experience for consumers,” Blackwell said.

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