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Power To The People

But sometimes consumers need a little push to see the benefit of a new technology. When wireless networking first reared its head, you would have been hard pushed to find any general consumers who even knew what it was, let alone what benefit it would bring to them. However, that all changed when Intel launched its Centrino platform, which embedded wireless networking into notebooks. As Wi-Fi enabled notebooks started to fly off the shelves, consumers started to realise how useful the technology was, and at the same time ISPs started shipping wireless routers with broadband packages. Once consumers realised that a combination of a wireless network and a Centrino notebook meant that they could use the Internet anywhere in their house, they were sold. These days pretty much any household with a broadband connection also has a wireless network, and once someone has got used to having Wi-Fi at home, they'll never want to be without it.

Wireless networking was, quite simply, something that everyone needed, but they just didn't realise that they needed it. And that's the case with a great many technologies - once people can see a tangible benefit, they will be happy to adopt it.

So what's next? In my opinion the next big thing will be another established IT product making its way into the consumer space - the NAS appliance. Now, if I mentioned Network Attached Storage to someone I passed on the street, they probably wouldn't know what I was talking about. But if I told that same person what a NAS appliance does, I'm sure they'd be very interested. You see NAS technology may have been initially developed for the business data market, but it's every bit as applicable to the average consumer household these days.

Most households have more than one computer, and as already mentioned many now have wireless networks set up via their broadband router. So, if you asked the average man on the street if he liked the idea of being able to access all of his important files, pictures, music and home videos from any computer in their house, without having to leave a machine switched on all the time, I can pretty much guarantee that they'd be ready to sign up in a heartbeat. He won't care how a NAS appliance works, he'll just care about what it can do for him.

If I asked that same man if he knew what a RAID array is, he'd probably be as blank as when I asked him about NAS. But if I explained that a RAID array would ensure that all his precious data, family photos and videos and (legally) ripped music was safe, even if a hard disk crashed, he'd want that technology too, no matter how it worked. Then if I told him that he could have both NAS and RAID technology in one small box, that would tick away quietly in a corner, he'd probably be asking me where he can buy one, credit card in hand.

A RAID enabled NAS appliance is the type of device that the average consumer will never understand, and never want to understand. But one thing's for sure, the benefits that such a device brings is obvious even to a tech novice, and if more consumers knew about those benefits, consumer NAS boxes would be flying off the shelves.

Will NAS appliances actually be the next killer convergence technology? I think so, and so do some big companies like HP, Acer and Netgear who are trying to make NAS technology more attractive and accessible to consumers. After all, consumers want technology to make their lives easier, not more complicated - something the tech companies forget all too often.

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