Home Networking Not Just For Geeks Anymore

By Jim Wagner

July 09, 2002

Cool devices like network-compatible stereos will just spur growth in a market that is just now surpassing the early adopter phase of growth, analysts predict.

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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