Iomega: EMC's entry to be at the center of your home

A little more than a year ago, EMC acquired Iomega for $213 million. Today EMC's master plan is coming into focus.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

A little more than a year ago, EMC acquired Iomega for $213 million. Today EMC's master plan is coming into focus. Iomega is to EMC what Linksys is to Cisco: An avenue to become ubiquitous in your home.

EMC thinks the consumer and home office market will be its fastest growing business in the next three to four years. Ultimately, EMC will be competing with Apple, Cisco and HP to be the center of your digital home, says Joel Schwartz, senior vice president and general manager of common storage platform operations at EMC.

That fancy title basically means Schwartz has been intertwined with all of the EMC's key storage products throughout the years. Now the game is to target the consumer. "Networked attached storage for businesses is everywhere. Why not the home?" said Schwartz in a recent conversation at ZDNet's New York office.

Schwartz said Iomega (all resources) was acquired for its brand and channel distribution not the technology, which was a commodity. Let's face it: The hard drive model is brutal.

Schwartz's plan: Make Iomega's storage software---a derivative of what is used in EMC's enterprise systems---consumer friendly so that it takes four clicks to set up. Behind the scenes Iomega would include EMC technology from RSA and other units. Schwartz said EMC retooled Iomega's software from scratch on the Linux kernel. The benchmark: "Whoever your partner is in life should be able to use this software in 5 minutes," said Schwartz.

Also see: Iomega launches new low-price Home Media Network Hard Drives

After taking Iomega's backup drive for a spin, I can verify that Schwartz was true to his four-click motto. The software bundled with Iomega's drive---it is also bundled with the Mozy online backup service---was easy. EMC updates the Iomega firmware on the fly for new features.

But will Iomega make it to my living room? Will it back up the data---photos, music, video and bits that add up to my life? That remains to be seen, but Schwartz's argument is interesting. The case for Iomega as a consumer brand goes like this:

  • Hard drive makers---Western Digital and Seagate---are boxed in to the PC, laptop markets;
  • Companies like Buffalo and Netgear will have to add too much functionality to compete in a router/backup realm;
  • Cisco, Apple, HP are all vying to be the center of the home, but come at it from different angles. Cisco sees the network---Linksys---as the center of the home with Flip riding shotgun. The rub: "Cisco doesn't know storage," says Schwartz. HP is a PC company trying to sell consumers on a home server. HP also has printers everywhare. And Apple wants everything to run through Apple---Apple TV, iTunes and iPod.

Enter Iomega. "Data is the most important thing to the home," says Schwartz. "These backup devices will be as ubiquitous as routers in three to four years."

The seeds are already being planted. Iomega in the last year launched the following:

  • Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link;
  • Iomega ScreenPlay Pro HD Multimedia Drive;
  • Iomega StorCenter ix2, a networked storage device.

Add it up and EMC sees Iomega as a storage leader in your home. It's not a home server per se, but it functions the same. It runs in the background and protects your stuff. Meanwhile, Iomega will be a hybrid device that backs up data locally and in the cloud because "not all consumers will want to put things up in the sky," says Schwartz.

Will this master plan work? It's quite possible. As Schwartz notes the Iomega brand has endured through the years and generally has a positive connotation. The challenge: Marketing. I did note that EMC needs to spend some time on naming this backup drive as something that's more home friendly. It's not like your mom is going to run to Best Buy and say, "I must have that new network attached storage thingy." Rest assured she's not asking for a home server or media center either. Maybe Apple will cook up some category.

That said the concept Schwartz lays can work---and it's not like he doesn't know how to grow a business. EMC accelerated its home invasion with the purchase of Iomega. Now we'll see if it can deliver. Will storage be at the center of your life?

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