Expo: Networked homes wave of future

The number of home networked devices will soar in the next decade - and most of those devices won't be PCs as we know them. That's just one of the major shifts looming in 1996, "The Year of the Wired Consumer", as described by Graham Penn, head of IT market research company IDC New Zealand.

Penn made the forecasts on the opening day of the Computerworld Expo, running in Auckland until Friday.

This will be the year when the Internet appliance becomes a reality, although Penn predicts it won't hit the market properly until 1997. When it does, he warns, price points "may be surprising - and PC vendors may not dominate sales".

Just as the proportion of PCs shipped to home and consumers jumped from 5% to 30% in the "front office" era of the PC, Penn expects the new age to see a dramatic rise in non-PC devices. He does not, however, see any diminishing of the influence of PC hardware giants such as Intel - quite the opposite in fact, as PCs penetrate even further into the home market.

Major hardware vendors will gain share in most world markets this year, Penn predicts.

"The price-performance of new PCs will continue to improve, with market pressures pegging the price of the latest consumer model to about $2400, even as the ceiling on specs lifts to encompass, before long, a machine toting a 400MHz Intel chip, 128Mb RAM and an 8Gb hard drive," Penn says.

"But if the PC market is heading homewards, what revenue there is from Internet activities will, in the near term, flow from business computing."

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