|Through its Windows XP Media Center Edition platform and other initiatives, Microsoft is positioning the PC as a "control center" for home networking and entertainment. Dennis Flanagan, product unit manager in Microsoft's Windows eHome Division, discussed the emergence of home networks and the potential channel opportunities with Russell Redman, CRN Managing Editor/Special Reports and CRN Online. Here are excerpts:|
|CRN: The overlap between the IT and consumer electronics markets seems to increase daily. What's driving the collision of these markets?
FLANAGAN: The driver for the convergence of all these devices is that people are accumulating a lot of digital media on their computers, and it adds a very personal context to their lives. It's one thing to collect music on my PC, but when I start organizing it into playlists of songs that are meaningful to me or into mixes that I want to have for a social event or party, that has a much more personal context. So people have a personal attachment to their music, pictures, videos, the TV shows they're recording, and so forth. Now they want to get access to that [content] where and when they want to. That's what's really driving the need for people to have their consumer electronics devices and PCs interoperate well.
CRN: The convergence of IT and consumer electronics centers on the so-called home network. Exactly what is the home network?
FLANAGAN: People are starting to network their homes, and the primary driver for that has been sharing an Internet connection. People have more than one PC and want access to that Internet connection from multiple PCs. As a result, you see products on the market for wired and wireless home networking. The next step is to use the infrastructure people are building to share an Internet connection to allow people to gain access to their media collections anytime, anywhere and on any kind of device.
CRN: Does the emergence of the home network offer IT solution providers any new opportunities?
FLANAGAN: Absolutely. People who really desire this kind of experience are not tech-savvy. While businesses have IT managers, people really don't want an IT manager for their house. Typically, there's the type of person at home who knows how to reset the clock on their VCR. But if we need to have an IT manager in every house to make this [home network] happen, we're really not creating a great experience or commercial opportunity.
However, for [solution providers], digital media receivers and home network access points are available now, and they are a bit intimidating to some people. One thing we'd like to see are great bundles of PCs, access points and digital media receivers that have been configured and tested so that people can take this stuff home, set it up and immediately enjoy media over the home network, because [setting up that technology] is not going to be easy for everyone. Over time, we want to make it easier, but I think that's a great opportunity for [solution providers] now,start making those bundles available, preconfigure them and perhaps add some service to make things easier for people.
CRN: So solution providers could step in and provide turnkey offerings geared toward different media?
FLANAGAN: Sure. If I get a Windows XP PC with a big hard drive, good-quality audio subsystem and good-quality graphics, wouldn't it be great if I could also have an option for an access point for another PC in my house and for a digital media receiver so that as I accumulate music, video and pictures on that XP PC, I could use the receiver to experience that stuff over the home network? That would be a great value offering for people.
CRN: Would branching into the home networking market be a big transition for IT solution providers?
FLANAGAN: I think the mainstream of people who buy consumer PCs are intimidated by the notion of networking. The experience that [solution providers] have in configuring and developing solutions for businesses is directly applicable for setting up home networks. Their ability to put together a configuration and then say to a customer, 'You know, if you can go put this stuff in your house, it's networked and it will work,' that's a bonus to a lot of people. It's a bit of a different market, of course. There are people in the business space who are tech-savvy about the solutions they're buying, while I think there are fewer [of those people] in the home. Nevertheless, the solutions expertise is the same.
CRN: The home market might require a more personal touch and more hand-holding.
FLANAGAN: An interesting question for the industry is that if these offerings work out of the box, will some customers still want someone to come in and set them up? Some customers might want an additional amount of comfort, which could be supplied in terms of service.
Want to get some holiday shopping done early? Here are 10 hot digital gift ideas from ShowStoppers NYC, guaranteed to make anyone with even the slightest interest in technology happy.
The Flip Mino makes online video even easier to post to YouTube, but other camera manufacturers are still part of the fray.
ChannelWeb this week had the opportunity to visit Ingram Micro's Solution Center and see how the distributor helps solution providers use it to work with their clients.
|More Slide Shows|