Nero looks to blaze beyond CD burning

Think of Nero and CD burning is often what first comes to mind, with basic versions of its software bundled by OEMs with thousands of CD drives sold around the world. However, the company’s new Canadian-born Americas president says Nero is set to enter a second phase of growth that will embrace what the company is calling liquid media.

Nero is based in Germany and has operations worldwide. The vendor’s Americas division is based in Glendale, Calif. and is led by Richard Carriere as president and general manager. The Canadian-born Carriere joined Nero in December, and was formerly a general manager with Ottawa-based Corel Corp.

The company’s flagship product is Nero 8 Ultra Edition, a digital multimedia suite that includes tools for organizing, managing and editing digital content. Carriere likens it to the Swiss Army Knife of digital media, and he says balancing the needs of both the expert user and the less tech-savvy consumer or business user is always a challenge.

“We need to cater to the loyal customers that made us successful who are typically technology savvy, and at the same time we need to cater to the casual business user or consumer that just wants something simple,” said Carriere. “We’re always trying to strike that balance with the suite.”

While Nero isn’t about to abandon the Swiss Army Knife approach of its rich flagship suite, Carriere says the vendor is now looking to carve-out certain functionalities and capabilities from the suite and tailor them to specific use-cases in a more user-friendly format. Consumers want to enjoy their digital media in different ways, he says, but at the moment having to think about formats, bit rates and codecs for different devices is getting in the way.

“We see ourselves as the enablers of liquid media, which is the ability to enjoy any media in a fluid fashion on any device, anytime, anywhere,” said Carriere.

One use-case being carved-out centres around the television. Nero has partnered with TiVo, developers of the popular set-top boxes for recording digital television tailored to personal preferences, and the two companies are working to develop a software solution that brings the Nero engine and the TiVo usability to the PC.

“You’ll have all the power, performance and flexibility of a PC, the strength of the Nero engine, and the TiVo user experience,” said Carriere.

In essence, the digital cable feed could be connected into the PC which could be used as a personal video recorder (PVR), eliminating the need for a TiVo box. Programming could be watched on the PC, or a cable connected back to the TV to watch it there.

“If you look at what’s available from HP or Microsoft today you can do it, but it’s not a very easy user experience,” said Carriere.

The details on the solution, which is expected to launch within the next year, are still being developed, but Carriere says it may open new opportunities for partners in the digital home integration space.

Another use case Nero is addressing is around the challenges of moving media files between different devices and from different sources, each of which have their own, often proprietary, formats. A utility under development and slated for a fall launch will make the media transfer process a seamless “drag and drop” experience, says Carriere.

“Without users having to ask themselves anything about the file format or the device the software will identify all of this and optimize the file transfer,” said Carriere.

Nero is also working with movie studios to incorporate their digital rights management (DRM) technology into CD burning engines. This would allow an online retailer such as, for example, to not have to stock movies but just burn and ship copies to customers when ordered. A bricks and mortar implementation could be with a retailer such as Wal-Mart, which could offer an in-store kiosk where customers could choose from thousands of movies they could burn and buy.

Nero in the channel

The OEM market is probably the largest channel for Nero, says Carriere. A basic version of the software is bundled with hardware by manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and LG, and users are encouraged to purchase an upgrade to the full suite. Last year Nero sold 45 million copies worldwide through the OEM channel alone.

“From a volume perspective the OEM channel is very important, but from a revenue perspective our biggest channel, certainly in Canada, is retail,” said Carriere. “Our presence in Canada is handled primarily through our channel partners.”

Distribution is handled in Canada by Navarre and Ingram Micro, with Nero’s products available in major retail chains such as Future Shop, Best Buy and Staples. While the majority of Nero’s sales are consumer, Carriere says the business space and volume-licensing is a fast-growing market for Nero.

“We’re getting more aggressively into volume licensing,” said Carriere. “With a lot of enterprises and government agencies there’s demand for this kind of software. Not only the burning capabilities but the backup capability, the video editing and playback as well.”

Partner VARs such as Softchoice often bundle Nero as part of a desktop image for clients such as the Bank of Canada and the Department of National Defence.

“We’re very channel-friendly, we don’t do anything direct,” said Carriere. “I’d say our fastest-growing channel by far is the volume-licensing channel.”

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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