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January 17, 2007

IT trends: the digital home

All the latest news from the computer industry appears to be centered on the digital home. According to all the pundits, we will be streaming, downloading, and storing data as never before. What is less clear is how much this will cost, and the ramifications it will have on the business consumer, as IT vendors see quick wins and large profit margins by focusing on the home consumer.

By CBR Staff Writer

A trend towards focusing on the digital home rather than businesses has emerged in the IT industry.

The cost of the digital home is problematic. Not only is the infrastructure expensive – the introduction of a 1Tb hard disk may appear to be of benefit, but the cost, certainly initially, will be prohibitive. There is a less than linear correlation between disk size and price. A 400Mb external hard disk can be picked up for less than GBP100, but add another 100Mb to the disk and the price increases by a factor of three.

1Tb of disk space might seem more than adequate, but experience tells us that storage is never enough, and one wonders how long it might be before people have to chain together several hard disks to cover all of their data requirements.

We also need to consider the issue of streaming media over the internet. Already, ISPs are beginning to worry about contention ratios, and to apply premiums or restrictions during peak hours, but streaming media will be, by definition, required at peak hours, which will put a strain on the infrastructure.

The PC is set to become the central point for all of this new technology, yet the PC has a less than perfect record when it comes to reliability. Even with intermittent usage, PCs have a nasty habit of dying at inconvenient moments. When the whole home is run from a PC, an outage will help redefine the word ‘inconvenient.’

Of more concern, however, is how this focus on the home consumer will affect the business market. There is only so much resource available for R&D, and it is possible that the home consumer market will be seen as a more lucrative space than the more demanding business market. The major enhancements of Microsoft Vista, for example, appear to be aimed at the digital media market, which fits more naturally with the home consumer than the majority of business users.

The digital home may be attracting all the attention, but there are still many problems to be overcome, and it would be a concern if too much effort was placed into this area at the expense of business users.

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Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)

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