Home Networking Not Just For Geeks Anymore

Home networking has reached the “early majority” phase in its growth as a
market, thanks in part to broadband growth in the U.S., as well as the need
to share files and printers, according to a report released by Cahner’s
In-Stat Monday.

The Arizona-based research company fielded the comments of 500 “average
advanced users” at HomeNetHelp.com for their opinions on home networking
and their plans to incorporate Internet gateways, routers and wireless
access points.

“You can see a correlation between the number of broadband users out there
and the number of home networks,” said Mike Wolf, In-Stat director of
enterprise and residential services. “The price for gateways has dropped
in the past year, also, down to $50, which makes it easier for people to
buy one.”

Another factor in the decision to set up a network in the house is the
relative ease in setup. Gone are the days when you need a Microsoft
Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) to connect a PC, laptop and printer
together. According to the survey, 95 percent installed the router
themselves, learning to connect the points using instruction manuals, books
and Internet research.

Ethernet is still the network connection of choice, with equipment
manufacturer Linksys the brand of choice with consumers.

No longer the domain of uber-geeks with a penchant to network everything in
the house to one intranet, more and more “common” users are setting up a
home nework, or are thinking about setting one up at home.

In the survey, 45 percent that didn’t already have a router set up at home
plan on buying one within the next three months, while another 45 percent
said they would within the next year.

You’re starting to see this convergence that gets people away from a
PC-centric environment,” Wolf said. “As in every technology, the first
generation almost always fails, the second generation starts to get things
right. You’ll see more and more people go from home networking (in itself)
to the (broadband) line as an entertainment network.”

He’s talking about the vendor-inspired hype surrounding “Internet devices
to the home” started at the turn of the century. One of the most famous,
Audrey, was a 3Com product that quickly, quietly went nowhere.

“The idea of Internet devices in the home has been pretty faddish,” Wolf
said. “In the case of Audrey, 3Com wasn’t making any money in the consumer
market, and had to get out of it anyways, but part of the problem was
almost across the board the prices were too high. Why buy a $1,000 device
when you can buy a $700 computer?”

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