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One Platform to Rule Them All! The Age of the Home Server Begins
The Diffusion Group, April 2008, Pages: 61
Today's consumer is an active participant in the digital world, both creating and consuming digital content through a variety of devices and rapidly accumulating vast "digital assets" comprised of both personal and commercial content. Concomitantly, new technologies make it possible for the consumer to access this digital content "anytime, anywhere, and on any device." This has resulted in an exponential increase in digital storage and serving requirements far beyond what "side-car" hard disc drives can handle; thus creating the need for a stand-alone, cost-effective solution that can provide secure storage and instant accessibility from a growing variety of devices, both stationary and mobile. Simply stated, the need for an in-home store-and-serve solution or Home Server is now emerging.
There are two primary foundations on which to design a Home Server, one which exploits the Personal Computer, the other, Consumer Electronics. This report discusses in detail the key differences between these two paths with a focus on usability, functionality, architecture expandability, and market positioning. Additionally, the report considers the advantages and disadvantages of each platform from the perspective of the designer/developer, the manufacturer, the distributor, and the consumer.
Covering three major regions (North America, Europe and Asia), this report offers a commonsensical needs-based segmentation by which to understand both existing and emerging Home Server solutions. It also provides a roadmap for the evolution of the Digital Consumer Ecosystem in which the Home Server plays an increasingly prominent role.
Those designing or delivering Home Server components, digital media players, home and remote networking solutions will find great value in this report, as will retailers, digital content companies, and service providers. As well, those with an interest in identifying those digital media features most desired by consumers including and beyond the enthusiast market will find this highly-detailed analysis extremely useful.
Key Findings From the Report:
- CE platforms are better suited than PC platforms to deliver Home Server functionality - CE-centric Home Servers will be less complex, less expensive, and ultimately more consumer friendly when compared to PC-centric solutions.
- That being said, PC-centric solutions will find a home among more tech-savvy consumers capable of and comfortable with managing the complexities of a PC environment. The Service Provider channel will prove an ideal channel for introducing and distributing Home Servers to the mainstream audience. First, provider subsidies will minimize entry costs and consumer risk. Second, providers will see the home server as a managed platform through which to deliver a host of value-added broadband services; thus eliminating the need for consumers to worry about ongoing maintenance or troubleshooting, while providing the operator a platform through which to grow incremental revenue.
- A strategy of adopting open standards - plus delivering a "better together" in family (proprietary) offering - is an ideal method to differentiate solutions.
Executive Summary & Key Findings 5
1.0 Introduction 8
1.1 Preliminary Comments 8
1.2 Research Sources and Methodologies 8
1.3 General Categories – PC-Centric and CE-Centric Home Servers 9
2.0 The Rapid Accumulation of In-Home Digital Assets 10
2.1 Domains of the Digital Consumer Ecosystem 10
2.2 Services in the Cloud 12
2.3 Personal Content Creation & Digital Archiving 13
2.4 Personal versus Commercial Content Value 14
2.5 The Evolution toward a Client/Server Architecture 15
3.0 Understanding Digital Media Storage and Serving Platforms 16
3.1 Digital Media Servers 16
3.2 Digital Media Players (Clients) 17
3.3 Media Serving Standards – Open versus Proprietary 18
3.3.1 The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) 18
3.3.2 Microsoft’s Media Center versus Apple’s ITunes Server 19
4.0 Segmenting Key Digital Media Applications 21
4.1 Personal Applications 21
4.1.1 Digital Photo “Shoeboxes” 21
4.1.2 Digital Music Jukeboxes 22
4.2 Professional Applications 23
4.3 Versatile Applications 24
4.4 Creating a Store-and-Serve Consumer Segmentation 24
5.0 Defining Store-and-Serve Platforms based On Consumer Needs 27
5.1 PC- versus CE-Centric Solutions – an Overview 27
5.2 PC-Centric Solutions 27
5.2.1 Entertainment PCs 28
220.127.116.11 Microsoft’s E-PC Offering 28
18.104.22.168 Apple’s E-PC Offering 28
22.214.171.124 Limitations of the PC-Centric Model 29
5.2.2 Network Attached Storage (NAS) 29
5.2.3 Home Server Computers (HSCs) 31
126.96.36.199 Description and Examples 31
188.8.131.52 The Relevance of Microsoft’s Windows Home Server 32
5.3 CE-Centric Solutions 33
5.3.1 Smart Storage Appliances (SSAs) 33
5.3.2 Home Entertainment Server Appliances (HESAs) 36
6.0 Home Server Forecasts thru 2012 38
6.1 Forecast Methodology 38
6.2 Disclaimers and Assumptions 38
6.3 Foundational Assumptions and Forecasts 39
6.3.1 Growth in Addressable Households 39
6.3.2 Broadband Diffusion 39
6.3.3 Home Network Diffusion 40
6.3.4 Regional Broadband and Home Network Forecasts 41
6.3.5 Home Server Projections 43
6.4 Global Home Server Diffusion 45
6.5 Product Mix Expectations 46
6.6 Regional Home Server Diffusion 47
6.6.1 North America 47
6.6.2 Europe 48
6.6.3 Asia 49
6.6.4 Regional Comparisons 50
7.0 Reflections and Recommendations 51
7.1 Where to Begin – Entering the Home Server Market 51
7.2 How to Make Money – Designing a Winning Home Server Strategy 52
7.2.1 A “Hail Mary” versus “Hinged” Product Strategy 52
7.2.2 Case Study: Apple’s “Hinged” Product Strategy 56
7.3 Leading Applications Target Real Consumer Needs 57
7.4 The Emergence of the Digital Hub57
7.5 Home Server Ecosystem Players 58
7.6 The Service Provider – A Key Distribution Channel 59
List of Figures
Figure 1 Cumulative Global Home Server Deployments – 2008 thru 2015 7
Figure 2 Two Roads to Home Server 9
Figure 3 The Five Facets of the Digital Consumer Ecosystem 12
Figure 4 Mobile Devices Pressure In-Home Storage Requirements 14
Figure 5 Identifying Store-and-Serve Consumer Segments 25
Figure 6 Defining Consumer Needs by Store-and-Serve Segments 26
Figure 7 Forecast Methodology 38
Figure 8 Global Broadband Households – 2005 thru 2030 40
Figure 9 Home Network Deployments – 2005 thru 2030 41
Figure 10 Broadband Households per Region – 2005 thru 2030 42
Figure 11 Home Network Deployments by Region – 2005 thru 203043
Figure 12 The Evolution of Home Servers – The Dawning of a New Era 44
Figure 13 Global Home Server Deployments – 2008 thru 2015 45
Figure 14 Home Server Product Mix – 2008 thru 2020 46
Figure 15 North American Home Server Deployments – 2008 thru 2015 47
Figure 16 European Home Server Deployments – 2008 thru 2015 48
Figure 17 Asian Home Server Deployments – 2008 thru 2015 49
Figure 18 Regional Home Server Deployments 50
Figure 19 The “Hail Mary” or “Big Bang” Approach 53
Figure 20 A Hinged Product Strategy – Incrementalizing New Technology Product Wins 54
Figure 21 Digital Home Server Ecosystem Players 58
List of Tables
Table 1 – Characterizing Digital Consumer Applications 21
Table 2 – Home Store-and-Serve Solutions: CE-Centric vs. PC-Centric 27
This report highlights current trends in digital storage and networking in the consumer home that are giving rise to demand for a single store-and-serve
platform on which consumers can archive their digital assets and from which digital content can be served to a variety of network-connected devices.
Key insights contained in this report include the following:
- The long-standing presumption in favor of the PC as the in-home digital media platform has shifted to devices with more CE-like characteristics that deliver simple, reliable, and targeted functionality. Consequently, PC-centric digital media solutions will be slowly relegated to more techsavvy households. Among mainstream consumers, the PC will occupy a support role when it comes to in-home digital media storage, management, and rendering. Simply stated, in the vast majority of households, the PC will not be the Home Server.
- Generally, consumers are more aware of the need to unify their digital media libraries so that they do not have to “sneaker net” CDs or DVDs from one room to another. Increasingly, they seek an experience defined by on-demand and consistent media gratification regardless of their location in the home (or outside of the home, for that matter – as TDG has long said, “The Digital Home Has No Walls”).
- Convincing indicators portend a slow but consistent shift away from isolated self-contained platforms to networked devices that interact in a client-server model. The client side of the equation represents the multiple devices consumers use to enjoy digital media (e.g., a TV, stereo, DVD player, or digital picture frame). The server in this architecture is represented by the platform on which the majority of a consumer’s personal digital media actually resides (i.e., on which it is stored and from which it can be served).
- Key to enabling this experience is the rapid diffusion of broadband Internet service and home networks. With these pieces in place, the road to a fully-networked, Internet-enabled digital entertainment experience is finally being paved, as is the path to a single networked solution tasked specifically with safely storing and serving digital content.
Several trends are coalescing to create this demand:
- The Accumulation of Consumer-Created Content: Given the rapid proliferation of content creation devices such as multimedia mobile phones and digital video cameras, not to mention improved image quality from HD video to 10MP consumer photos, consumers will soon require several times the digital storage used today. As well, commercial content from downloaded music and videos to recorded TV all add to inhome storage needs. Escalating storage requirements will drive consumers to look for cost-effective network-capable solutions that go beyond basic PC- or network-attached storage.
- The Proliferation of Digital Media Devices: Today’s household owns a wide variety of digital media devices, be it desktop and laptop PCs, game consoles, mobile phones, or portable digital media players – each of which requires synchronization, backup, and interoperability with other devices.
- Declining Cost of Digital Storage: Trends in storage pricing suggest that manufacturing and distributing inexpensive Home Server products is well within the reach of most PC and CE Original Equipment Managers (OEMs).
- Content Control: Despite the fact that media is (slowly) moving from a physical format to a digital format, consumers still want to “own” their digital media. This behavior is well-rooted and unlikely to change in the next five years, meaning that consumers will still prefer to store their digital media in their home as opposed to “in the cloud.” Collectively, these trends point to increasing demand for a single, stable in-home store-and-serve solution – in other words, a Home Server. The challenge (and opportunity) is to design a platform that is optimized for the needs of the average consumer (e.g., is extremely easy to set up and use and relatively inexpensive).
Digital media applications can be separated into Personal DM Applications (think music or personal photos and videos) from the Professional DM Applications (think computer-centric applications such as data backup and remote access). Where these two sets of activities overlap, an emerging sweet spot is identified, one populated by what TDG calls Versatile DM Applications - applications that blend elements of both personal and professional digital activity; activities undertaken by consumers who (1) enjoy creating and consuming a wide variety of digital media and (2) are compelled to ensure their safe storage and even allow for remote access. In some ways, versatile applications can be thought of as the ultimate expression of the digital lifestyle.
Versatile applications represent a combination of professional and personal applications, and are built to meet the needs of more advanced consumers who not only possess a thorough understanding of the technology in use but can envision uses that blend the two domains. For example, though having remote access to important information may be seen as a professional application, it can also be viewed as a personal application. In another example, emerging applications such as place-shifting use the power of remote access solutions to give consumers anywhere/anytime access to their home-stored photos, videos, or music collection from any web-enabled device.