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  The Role of Storage in Next-Generation Consumer Electronics
By Michael Greeson, President, The Diffusion Group. Michael can be reached at greeson@tdgresearch.com

As digital electronics continue to replace legacy analog consumer electronics in the home, the need for digital content storage (either embedded or network-capable) will grow concurrently.  The adoption of digital cameras and DVD recorders, as well as the widespread use of the home PC as a media device, have led to a notable accumulation of digital media content in the home.  As this digital evolution continues to play out, the amount of storage required to support the average consumer home will grow.  Those companies that have an intimate understanding of how consumers use new digital electronics will have the early lead in designing storage solutions that are best positioned for widespread diffusion.

Chipset Trends:  An Early Indicator of Growing Storage Needs
Storage needs can be tracked against trends in chipset development and deployment:  the more powerful and capable chipsets become, the larger the data files that can be manipulated, and (hopefully) the more robust the user experience (faster speeds, more refined images, better control). 

Storing these files, then, soon becomes an issue.  As the chipset evangelists often say, the more powerful the chipset, the more data will be created – a phenomenon that has direct implications of storage requirements.

A number of new chipsets including IBM/Sony/Toshiba’s Cell, Intel’s Viiv platform, and TI’s new DaVinci processor will soon be available for use in the next generation of stationary and mobile media devices.  Once these types of advanced platforms find widespread usage – it is not a question of if, but when –no doubt storage requirements will advance as well.

Storage Options:  Today and Tomorrow
Digital storage in the home has been primarily the province of personal computers until the last few years.  Starting in the mid-1990s a new category of storage devices began to appear in the home, digital storage for consumer electronics.  Since the first appearance of semiconductor flash memory music players and digital cameras, as well as the appearance of digital video recorders (DVRs) using hard disk drives to store television programming, digital storage has become an important aspect of entertainment both inside and outside the home.  The vast majority of digital consumer electronic devices – whether DVRs, home media centers, digital cameras (both still and video), and portable media players – now commonly use some type of digital storage component such as hard disk drives, optical disks, and flash memory.  Digital storage-based devices are also becoming more common in automobile navigation and entertainment systems as well as in cell phones.

In the next five years, all digital homes will ultimately include some form of digital storage, whether housed in specific devices such as those listed above or connected to a network that serves a variety of connected devices.  In addition, consumer data (that is, personal still and video images, movies and music, as well as personal computer files) are likely to be stored off-site, perhaps through an SSP (Storage Service Provider), a new type of service provider used to preserve a household’s digital content in the event of a “disaster” that results in the destruction of data collected among the various devices in the home.
The table below lists several examples of home storage with usage notes and optimal storage types.


Examples of Home Digital Storage*

Home Application

Storage Devices

Application Hierarchy

Usage Notes/ Storage Types

Desktop/Laptop Computer

Optical (CD/DVD)

Fixed/Mobile Device Storage

Removable storage for backup & software distribution

Hard Disk Drive

Fixed/Mobile Device Storage

Mass storage

USB Flash Memory

Fixed/Mobile Device Storage

Removable storage for backup and sharing

DRAM semiconductor memory

Fixed/Mobile Device Storage

This holds operating system and acts as cache memory

DVR/PVR/STB

Optical (DVD)

Fixed Device Storage

Removable storage for backup and sharing

Internal Hard Disk Drive

Fixed Device Storage

Mass storage

External Hard Disk Box

Fixed Device Storage

Expansion mass storage or backup

Personal Audio-video Player

Internal Hard Disk Drive

Mobile Storage Device

Mass storage

Internal Flash Memory

Mobile Storage Device

Mass storage

Semiconductor Memory

Mobile Storage Device

Cache memory, especially important to control power usage for HDDs

Removable Flash Memory/Removable HDD

Mobile Storage Device

Removable storage for expansion, backup and software distribution

Still Digital Camera

Internal Hard Disk Drive

Mobile Storage Device

Mass storage

Internal Flash Memory

Mobile Storage Device

Mass storage

Removable Flash Memory

Mobile Storage Device

Removable storage for archiving and data transfer

Removable Hard Disk Drive

Mobile Storage Device

Removable storage for data transfer

Video Digital Camera

Internal Hard Disk Drive

Mobile Storage Device

Mass storage

Removable Tape

Mobile Storage Device

Mass storage, transfer, and archiving

Internal Flash Memory

Mobile Storage Device

Mass storage

Removable Flash Memory

Mobile Storage Device

Removable storage for archiving and data transfer

Removable Hard Disk Drive

Mobile Storage Device

Removable storage for data transfer

Automobile Entertainment and Navigation

Optical (CD/DVD)

Mobile Storage Device

Removable storage for software distribution.

Hard Disk Drives

Mobile Storage Device

Mass Storage, Extremes of temperature possible

Removable Flash Memory

Mobile Storage Device

Removable storage for data transfer

External Direct Attached Storage

Hard Disk Drives in an External Box

Semi-Fixed Storage Device

Used for backup and data transfer.  Interfaces include USB, IEEE 1394 (Firewire), and external SATA

Home Server

Hard Disk Drive(s) in a Computer

Network Primary Storage and Backup

Mass storage and shared storage

Home Network Storage

Hard Disk Drive(s).  May be single drive or HDD array or two or more drives

Network Primary Storage and Backup

Mass storage and shared storage



The well-furnished digital home in 2005 has a single drive DVR/PVR/STB, a desktop computer, a laptop computer, a digital portable music player, and an external storage device.  By 2010, this same home will include a multi-room PVR with attached storage devices, a home NAS, a variety of personal media players, a multimedia phone, at least one laptop or palmtop computer, and an automobile navigation and entertainment system.  Consequently, TDG forecasts that the amount of digital content stored in this digital home will grow from approximately 322 GB in 2005 to 1,933 GB in 2010. 

Conclusion
While TDG estimates that there are now some 20 million digital homes in the US (that is, households that have a broadband connection, a home network, and multiple networked devices), less than 6% of US households would qualify as a “well-furnished” digital home as defined above.  However, it is very plausible that by 2010 this number will exceed 20% of US households – or approximately 22 million – and this is using the more sophisticated version of a “well-furnished” digital home in 2010.

There has been much recent discussion as to whether the arrival of the “digital home” is for real or remains vacuous.  Yet so many of those who toss out opinions on this issue begin their diatribes with a fatal mistake:  the do not provide a definition of what the term “digital home” means.  Without such a definition, it is easy to straw-man the concept for easy deconstruction – an interest intellectual exercise but one that has no value whatsoever to the industry.  In fact, it often results in parallel discourse (that is, parties talking past one another because they are essential speaking to two or more different definitions of the phrase in question).  This simply muddles the discussion beyond resolution, something pundits love to do but which has little value to those trying to create viable business models in the space.

As understood by TDG, the “digital home” is not some futuristic vision that has no likelihood of becoming a mass-market phenomenon.  It is already very real for some 20 million US households, and will indeed become more common as the evolution from analog to digital technologies continues to play out.  This transition is expected to be the greatest single factor contributing to the growth of home storage requirements in the next five years. 

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*Trends in Digital Home Storage (2005, TDG Research)