Australian resellers would do well to focus on the small end of the networking market, if this year's Las Vegas Comdex is anything to go by.
A number of major vendors announced new products for networking small businesses and homes and the exhibition floors were awash with vendors hawking solutions for this space.
Novell led the parade, announcing Netware for Small Business 4.2, a new version of its network operating system with management and Internet features aimed especially at companies with less than 100 employees.
Shipping today, NetWare for Small Business 4.2 includes installation wizards - including an Internet connection wizard - that lead users through the set-up process, said Rick Balazs, product manager for NetWare for Small Business at Novell. The product is designed to make it easy to use for those who don't have a lot of experience setting up networks, he said.
The product includes several new features, including Novell's BorderManager FastCache technology that aims to improve the speed of connection between the user's network and the Internet. In addition, the package includes NetObjects's Fusion Web, an Internet design and hosting tool, and FaxWare from Tobit Software, which provides inbound and outbound faxing capabilities from each workstation on the network.
While networking small businesses have been recognised as a growing market for some time now, home networking looks like the next emerging market vendors are targeting.
Home networking will connect all appliances in a home or office to a common network maintained by a service provider such as a telecommunications company, said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects. Phones, PCs, lights, air conditioning and security systems will all be attached to one network eventually, he said.
Compaq president and CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer spent much of his keynote address preaching about the benefits of the networked home. In support of that, Compaq announced its new Internet PCs, which come bundled with broadband communications equipment for transmitting data via DSL, cable or satellite.
The question of how data will be transmitted within the home is still open to debate. Cables are difficult to install in existing homes and can be unsightly. That has prompted a number of vendors to promote wireless networking for the home.
Phillips announced its AMBI wireless home networking system, which transmits PC functions onto TV sets within a 45-metre range. AMBI uses ShareWave's digital wireless technology.
Ramp up demand
Low-end networking specialist SohoWare has a range of wireless home networking equipment. Officials from that company, who are looking to enter the Australian market, said they expect demand for these products to ramp up very quickly in the US in the next three to six months.
Start-up Enikia, however, is not touting wireless networking. It is proposing to use household power lines to connect PCs, peripheral and electronic equipment together at 10Mbps.
Enikia claims to have overcome the technical problems which have so far troubled other vendors who have aimed to use power lines to transmit data.