RealTime IT News

It's Still a PC-Driven Home Network

PC makers Dell and HP are establishing themselves as the choice suppliers for consumers that are increasingly interested in home networking, according to a new survey by The NPD Group.

As a result of a survey of over 9,000 panelists, the NPD Group's said Dell was cited as a leader in developing home networking products by close to half (49 percent) of those who have a home network and more than half (57 percent) of those who don't yet have one.

HP came in just a few percentage points under Dell among those who currently have a home network (44 percent) and 40 percent of those who are planning to install one. Over 50 percent of respondents cited Dell as a product leader, support leader and value leader for home networking products.

Stephen Baker, director of industry analysis for NPD, noted that because most of what consumers do with home networks today are PC centric tasks, the results were not surprising. "If you look at things people do today on home networks, such as file sharing, bandwidth sharing [via Wi-Fi], and sharing printers, these are PC centric activities. So the results are very natural, given where we are in this stage of home networking," he told internetnews.com. "The question for the future is how consumers will view these providers when the uses begin to involve more extensive inclusion of home entertainment gear."

For folks who want to install home networking equipment, the survey found that expectations of what a home network could accomplish were beyond the current capabilities of products in the marketplace.

"Planners anticipate being able to easily add devices to their network and to use the devices to do tasks such as media file sharing and streaming among the devices, tasks that are not simply accomplished given most of what is readily available," the survey said. However, those with home networks are much more realistic about the capabilities of the technology and are satisfied with their ability to perform the expected tasks while realistic about the challenges facing them should they attempt to incorporate more tasks and devices into the network, according to Baker.

"Today, digital photo and video sharing represent the most popular media-related task accomplished on the PC. In order to capitalize on the consumers' interest in home networking, manufacturers must develop and support improved media-sharing products," Baker added. "If suppliers are not able to provide the next wave of buyers with devices and infrastructure that meet these expectations there is potential for disappointment and unhappiness among these network planners."

As for the type of home networks being installed, over half of the survey respondents said they had an Ethernet network. Twenty-two percent said they were going with Wi-Fi networking.

However, the results also showed that Wi-Fi is becoming more popular among notebook owners. NPD said sales data collected through its point of sale panel show that consumers' increasing choice of network installation is with wireless networks. Baker said through the first 10 months of 2003 sales of wireless networking hardware exceeded $500 million in US retail sales, reflecting revenue growth of almost 120 percent.

In addition, he said wireless networking products account for 56 percent of all revenue generated for consumer networking devices, attesting to the powerful draw Wi-Fi networks exert over the buying public.