People Don't Care About Home Networking -- Nor Should They
By Mike Masnick, Tue Feb 01 23:15:00 GMT 2005

A new study is raising a stink over the fact that the vast majority of people without a home network claim they don't want one. The problem isn't that the market is saturated, but that the wrong questions are being asked and the wrong marketing strategy is being implemented.

When nearly 90% of people without a home network claim they have no interest in one it's likely to generate both some headlines, and some worries in the industry that maybe the market is already saturated. However, the details of the study suggest the problem isn't one to be too concerned about.

The study simply asked people whether or not they wanted a home network -- which is going to be completely meaningless to anyone who doesn't know why they would want a home network. What would have been much more interesting is to have the same study ask people whether or not they would be interested in a variety of services that were only possible with a home network.

This doesn't, however, absolve the industry from the marketing task at hand. Rather than focusing on selling home networking equipment or (the oh-so-catchy "customer premise equipment"), networking equipment providers need to be working to convince others to build out the applications, devices and services that make use of the network. In other words, instead of thinking of the network as the end product, vendors have to realize it's a platform, and no platform catches on without applications to make it valuable. That also means making it work easily. Unfortunately, as "standardized" as something like Wi-Fi is, it's still confusing and difficult for many users to set up.

For Wi-Fi networking (which, these days, is what most home networks use), the trick to go to the next level is to make the whole Wi-Fi network part invisible. It needs to just work, without anyone trying to figure out which network they're getting on, and whether or not they're properly connected. This means, cutting back on releasing pre-standard, non-standard incompatible "upgrades" to Wi-Fi and getting the security piece right, so that it really can run in the background while all those useful services and applications become the focus of what users are doing on these newly "invisible" home networks.