IN THE HOT SEAT: Seagate drives further into CE market

IN THE HOT SEAT: Seagate drives further into CE market

Canadian-born Kevin Ho landed in Australia in April, charged with developing the local channel. Although previously maintaining some contact with resellers while working as dist­ribution sales manager for Seagate in Singapore, it hadn't been a focal point for him.

All this is to change however. Ho is now looking to develop channel relationships and reach out to distributors (the company currently deals with Achieva, Ingram and Synnex), as well as resellers, system integrators and end users.

While a challenge, Ho said he was up for the task - and there were things to get excited about.

The vendor has made several local announcements in recent months, the most notable of which was the launch of its five-year warranty protection program.

Ho said he wanted to get partners and distributors excited about these and other upcoming contributions to the storage market.

In particular, he was hoping to develop channel knowledge of new disc drive tech­nologies like SATA with Native Command Queuing.

How did you get involved with Seagate?

Kevin Ho (KH): I went to grad school in 1998 to 2000 during the height of IT in the US. Most of the recruiting was going to tech companies and that is when I got involved with Seagate and was hired in 2000. This is my second career.

The first one was in the banking industry as a commercial lender in Boston. I managed the retailers' portfolio, which was worth hundreds of millions, and I also did small business banking. I was originally more into the financial side of things, but tech pretty much fell into my lap.

When I started with Seagate in 2000, I was trained at its headquarters in Scotts Valley, California. This involved learning about the industry and how Seagate works, getting your foot in the door, and meeting the right people at the various locations. After that, I was posted to Singapore where I worked on pricing and programs.

What product categories does the company offer?

KH: Seagate is a leader in hard-disk drive storage technology. We cover a wide range of hard disk drive products. We recently launched 12 new products that now cover 97 per cent of the total hard disk drive storage availability. This covers three-and-a-half inch, two-and-a-half inch and one-inch drives, as well as various spindle speeds, and capacity ranges.

Overall, the company provides hard-disk drives for enterprise, desktop, mobile computing and consumer electronics applications.

What are the main trends touching the hard-disk drive market?

KH: The form factor is getting smaller, capacities are still increasing, albeit at a slightly slower pace in terms of the capacity not doubling as quickly as they used to.

We are seeing the industry look at other less traditional markets outside the desktop PC computing market.

One of the biggest we are looking at is consumer electronics (CE). Seagate has been at the forefront of the CE market. Overall, this has been a strategy for the last few years and we want to expand on it.

The company recently expanded the line of CE hard-disk drives. We launched a 5GB one-inch hard drive for handheld applications, a new 400GB hard drive for digital video recorder (DVR) and home entertainment systems, and a 5GB one-inch Compact Flash external hard drive, which gives consumers up to 5000MB of storage for digital cameras.

In addition to product rollouts, what other initiatives affected the channel this year?

KH: The rollout of the five-year warranty in July was a major announcement. We went from a one-year warranty on most of our products to five-year for all products, excluding external retail storage solutions. The industry standard is three years.

The warranty is for every internal PC, notebook and enterprise hard drive shipped through distribution and retail channels worldwide. The company has raised the bar for customer service and support and resellers are responding favourably.

What are some of your channel strategies for 2005?

KH: Locally, we are mapping out where partners fit into the channel model. A lot of the segments are hybrid models so it is difficult to pinhole the customer.

This is one of our challenges: getting to know partners and customers better (being able to identify specific needs and segments). We do have partner programs that are tailored, but we're constantly refining them and making them more relevant.

We also plan to do more road shows, reaching out to some of the universities. We are also doing other road show events with vendors, including motherboard manufacturers (such as Intel).

By working together, the two companies can share information about new hard-drive technology.

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