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.
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 network, 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?”
In related research, Parks Associates finds that almost one-fifth of all U.S. households will have a home computer networking solution by 2006, and many of these data-centric networks will be wireless.
Parks cites the flexibility of wireless networks, which use free spectrum in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, as contributing to their growing appeal, and as this technology becomes more affordable, the total number of wireless nodes for data-centric home networks in the U.S. will grow from more than two million at the end of 2002 to nearly 20 million by the end of 2006.
“The rapid deployment of wireless networks in the enterprise and residential sectors has reduced the end-user cost for residential consumers to the point that these solutions have become very affordable in a very short time span,” said Kurt Scherf, vice president of research for Parks Associates. “The need for flexibility in networks has increased as consumers use more mobile devices such as laptop computers and thus seek more options to expand the work areas in their homes. We’re also seeing increased deployment of wireless access points, routers, and residential gateways, which will also spur radio frequency (RF) [define] networking at home.”
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