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Vendor View : What’s Next for Netgear?

Moving beyond routers to storage and networking game-changers

January 2010 By Nancy Klosek
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Netgear, a 13-year-old company whose original business model was built on the simple need for wireless Internet connection within the home, is morphing right along with the consumer's desire for solutions that go beyond connectivity to include data storage and more. And with the introduction of the Stora NAS device, the company is also tapping into consumers' familiarity and love affair with control devices like the iPhone and Blackberry.

The $229 Stora (make sure to see our video on Netgear's new offerings in "The Angle" at Dealerscope.com) is a small-footprint cube that comes with a one-terabyte disk that stores photos, music, movies and other files for access on any network device. It enables simple content-sharing within the home and centralizes digital media for sharing with people or devices beyond the owner's walls. It may also be used for backing up content. An optional $20 yearly premium subscription provides users with higher-level functionality, including remote access and compatibility with services like Flickr and third-party devices such as the iPhone.

It is a product that seemed made to order for J&R Music World's content-loving customer base, said Abe Brown, spokesman for the New York City-based retailer that has been a key Netgear dealer for the last 10 years.

"Netgear is very supportive of us and our consumers, and they know the market well," he said. "We have an entire sales force—six or seven people—dedicated primarily to networking and they all give Netgear rave reviews. Their products have been on target, but what our salespeople told me they would appreciate were more networking audio/video devices. The new Stora meets our needs in that regard very well."

By tying into the control comfort level provided by smartphones, Netgear wants to make home networking's possibilities "as simple as plumbing," said Vivek Pathela, Netgear's vice president and general manager of home consumer products. "Like plumbing, people don't want to learn about it, but they have a real need for it. Accessing Stora content through the iPhone is a way we can help people who are comfortable with their own devices meet that need."

Stora is one in a host of new Netgear offerings that Pathela said provide "connections anytime, anywhere, with any media on any screen to make content available to anyone."

Other home and small-business networking solutions include the WNDR3700 RangeMax dual-band Wireless-N gigabit router, which Pathela characterized as "the ultimate networking machine." The device's USB port uses ReadyShare technology that makes files on any USB plugged into it available over a network. Further, it supports DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) standards. Its high-speed performance makes it suitable for online gaming, large data transfer and HD video streaming, according to Netgear.

Featured at retail as well this year will be the latest member of the Netgear Digital Entertainer Internet-connected set-top box category: the EVA-2000 or "little EVA." The device allows users to play Internet content and digital media collections on their TVs. The 2000 supports 720p video content.

Netgear is also helping its retail partners educate consumers on product applications with new in-store cross-merchandising. For example, Best Buy is promoting Netgear's XAVB-1004 Powerline AV Kit, a four-port networking switch using HomePlug AV Powerline technology, in several showroom floor locations—including the home theater areas. The reasoning, Pathela said, is to build awareness for the products among powerline equipment owners who realize the necessity of having more ports.

Netgear's product development direction, coupled with its marketing initiatives, has kept the company on a growth track, Pathela said.

"We are at a 25-percent share in our category, gaining share from our primary competitors and experiencing one-percent share gains per quarter," he said. "We also help to train 6,000 sales associates per month, with both Web-based training and demo days at retailers using our field reps, because we realize it's necessary to continually refresh our training."

The company's CEO, Patrick Lo, articulated Netgear's broad view for 2010 and beyond at a recent product showing. "Our vision is a Netgear box in every home," he said. DS


 

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