The low-end market has been for some time viewed as the last great wilderness for many networking vendors.
Call it SOHO or small business or whatever you like, vendors such as Cisco and 3Com are talking up the merits of the low-end market, with promises of new products that will create interest in this as yet untouched marketplace.
The push into low-end networking will make interesting viewing at the very least, with vendors having to overcome a number of hurdles. Most small businesses are fairly new to computing, and having only recently made their investment, may be reticent to spend further money on networking hardware. For that matter, small business hates spending money on anything, let alone on something that has ill-defined benefits and that even their competitors don't yet have.
So what will be the attraction of low-end network products for resellers?
Is it margin? Probably not. The way most vendors are talking, price is going to be kept to a minimum for the end-user, with the likelihood of tight margins for resellers.
Is it volume? While a high product turn-over may compensate for small margins, again most vendors are admitting that it will take quite some time (and a heap of marketing dollars) to create market awareness, both of the products and their abilities, and, more importantly, of how those abilities will assist business. Most vendors are not household names in this market - a factor that could work in favour of Compaq.
Is it after-sales support? Unlike photocopiers, customers will expect their investment in networking to work. And once that investment is in place they will be reluctant to get into a cost spiral as new services are added. And quite often these products are being designed so they will not need to be supported.
While the amount of talking being done by vendors indicates that something is in the offing, it will now be a case of wait and see.