Consumer electronics show revolves around home-networking products, not business technology

Microsoft, Cisco and Dell announced new products aimed at home networks at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Among the broader-based product introductions aimed at sophisticated home networking were networking suites, servers and backup services designed to give consumers many of the same IT capabilities as small and medium-sized businesses.

Read about the channel impact of big-vendor home networking at CES.

Microsoft Corp. announced its new Home Server -- a file and print server designed to install and configure itself once a consumer plugs it into an existing network of local PCs.

Channel impact
Vendors woo consumers, not the channel

The servers -- which will initially be delivered already installed on a server from HP or another Microsoft partner -- are designed to deliver easy to use automated backup and restore, centralized storage, secure remote access across the Internet, and simple setup.

Channel angle: None yet. Microsoft plans to sell the units through OEMs and retail outlets, but might expand into other channels later on. Microsoft spokespeople hinted that the company might deliver a software-only version to allow tech-savvy customers to build their own Home Servers, but would not confirm the plans.

Cisco Systems Inc.'s Linksys division introduced a host of home-networking products including a new network-attached storage (NAS) product with a 3-terabyte capacity, a powerline Ethernet adapter designed to transmit data, voice, HDTV and other traffic at 30Mbit/sec as well as new printers and wireless print servers.

Channel angle: Linksys gear is sold primarily through retail outlets, distributors and second-tier resellers, but Cisco chairman John Chambers said the company plans to continue and expand its reliance on the channel for its future products.

Dell Inc. announced a new Home Media Suite that bundles its high-end Dell XPS 410 -- which can act as both a PC and a file-and-print server -- with an Intel Core Duo chip, 2GB of memory, 1TB of disk plus precision speakers, a web camera, Dell's new 27-inch LCD display and a Dell router with an integral HDTV tuner.

It also announced Dell Data Safe Online, an Internet-based backup-and-restore service that can simply add extra capacity, or can reinstall all of a user's preferences and other data in case of a hard drive failure. Dell can also install an identical image of an existing PC on a new Dell unit before it ships from the factory.

Channel angle: "We can send it to you already configured with your preferences. Of course, only a direct company can do that," Michael Dell said in his CES keynote.

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