The Future Of SOHO

Technology: The Driver Of The Home Office

Think technology hasn't driven the transition to the home office? Consider these statistics, courtesy of PC Data:

Some 39 percent of U.S. households own at least one personal computer, and 16.2 percent have more than one.
52.8 percent of home PC households are connected to the Internet.
56.6 percent of households own a mobile phone.
6.6 percent of households use a personal digital assistant (PDA).

Just small and home office spending in the tech sector alone speaks volumes to how reliant we are-and will continue to be-on technology. In 1998, the small and home office segment spent $51.1 billion on technology; by 2002, the number should grow to $71.2 billion, according to International Data Corp. (IDC).

Homebased entrepreneurs' reliance on technology is destined to grow dramatically, says Milosz Skrzypczak, an analyst in personal technologies with research and consulting firm The Yankee Group. Technology and high-speed connectivity is just starting to grow. Broadband Internet access should be in 16.6 million U.S. homes by 2004, Skrzypczak says. That makes sense, he theorizes, "[because] these days, everything starts with the Internet."

Small offices in the next three years will become networked like the big boys. In-home networking products like Intel's AnyPoint and 3Com's HomeConnect link multiple computers with plug-and-play ease. In fact, home networking will become more common as a standard feature on newly built homes. Category Five (Cat 5) wiring will enable computers and other home technology, from kitchen appliances to home theaters, to be linked and driven off a main computer.

Two coming technologies that are already making their way onto the scene are application service providers (ASPs) and voice-recognition software. ASPs take everything from calendaring, bookkeeping and document storage off local PCs and move it to a service provider's server. The benefit is that users can "rent" powerful, high-end software that is hosted remotely and receive constant tech support from the ASP. This allows approved staff or partners to check the company's ledger, calendar or documents from any computer terminal in the world.

Voice recognition will eliminate awkward data entry into PDAs and even PCs, Skrzypczak says. While it's currently available, advancements in the coming years will make it more powerful-and less prone to errors.

"The dominant theme will be simplicity," Skrzypczak says. "Computing and networking now is tech-heavy, but it will get easier."

Note This

In 1998, SOHOs spent $52.2 billion on technology; by 2002, the number should grow to $78.8 billion
Tomorrow's technologies for today's home office: application service providers and voice-recognition software
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