Memo to HP, Apple: Don’t Call It A Home Server
As Hewlett-Packard, Apple and other companies prepare to launch new home servers, The VAR Guy offers this concern: Do consumers really want anything branded as a “server”? Many consumers don’t understand server jargon. And those who actually understand a server’s purpose think they are complex, difficult-to-manage boxes that are locked away in a closet or data center. So, what’s the proper label for a home server?
Alas, The VAR Guy doesn’t have a good answer to that question yet.
But let’s start with the good news:
- Consumers need a central device to manage mounds of video, audio and other multimedia files
- Consumers are now network savvy, with WiFi flourishing in millions of homes
- Corporate IT giants like Cisco Systems are preparing to launch stereos and other Internet-enabled devices for the home
- Nimble start-ups are polishing Linux for home servers. One example is the Amahi Linux home server
- Millions of kids stand ready to help their parents install central media systems — a.k.a. home servers
Now for the challenges:
- Consumers aren’t in love with Windows Vista on the desktop. Are they willing to bet on new Windows-based media servers?
- Apple — the king of digital consumer market — apparently is rethinking its Mac Mini and AppleTV efforts because neither appliance-oriented device is thriving. And if Apple can’t hit home runs in the consumer living room what hope do traditional server vendors have?
- Always cynical, The VAR Guy believes “home server” is nothing more than PC companies trying to create a new brand category that offers more product margin than traditional PCs deliver.
What Will They Serve Up Next?
So, how will the home server market emerge? Perhaps The VAR Guy’s own home provides some clues. His home network includes three laptops (running Mac OS X, Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP) and two desktops (running Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP). Over time, more and more media files landed on his Ubuntu Linux desktop. And increasingly, The VAR Guy’s mobile devices fetch and share files with the Ubuntu desktop. Translation: The Ubuntu desktop has emerged as The VAR Guy’s default server.
This scenario will play out across the United States over the next two years: Kids and parents with Netbooks and Notebooks will roam from one WiFi network to the next. And the old home PC will emerge as a default server.