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Wireless Home Network Setup Simplification

A consumer survey conducted by ABI Research has found that while most owners of home networks find their equipment works reasonably well, they would be willing to upgrade -- if that resulted in easier troubleshooting.

The conclusion: there is an opportunity for home network equipment vendors if they can automate some of the commonest diagnostic and configuration tasks. Meaning, just in case you have any doubt, the digital home device usability issue is still a barrier to exploring new applications adoption.

According to industry analyst Michael Inouye, "Although nearly 30 percent of the 1007 respondents to the U.S. consumer survey reported some initial difficulties in setting up their equipment, only 11 percent actually returned products as being too complex."

Most of the problems occurred with wireless setup, suggesting that vendors have an opportunity to make wireless network setup and security a much easier process through software and hardware solutions.

More than half of the survey respondents indicated that troubleshooting software would be extremely or very valuable to them. Automating simple tasks such as hardware resets would be even better.

At present the overwhelming majority of those surveyed use their home networks to provide basic Internet access to more than one computer; printer sharing and (with those under 35 years old) online gaming ran distant second and third.

However that usage pattern -- and the associated setup and maintenance -- will soon become much more complex, as networks increasingly assume the role of distributing multimedia content around the home.

As more mainstream users attempt to connect a PC to their TV set, to stream live online video or playback video on demand, I anticipate that home networking Wi-Fi router vendors who provide support for the optimization of this connection will gain market share.

To date, I've not witnessed any noteworthy marketing differentiation effort -- from a networking or PC vendor -- that specifically targets this nascent consumer demand, and the associated growth opportunity. Tech-savvy friends and family are still the primary consumer support advocates for multimedia applications.

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