You're in your home office typing away on that business proposal when the kids start clamoring to print the latest artwork created on a PC in their bedroom. Or your in-house employee needs to log on to the Internet for some research. The only problem: In both cases, your PC is the only one linked to those much-needed tools.
What's a multitasking entrepreneur to do? As the number of homes with multiple PCs grows, the need for multiple printers and Internet connections is enough to strain limited resources-and wits.
The answer: in-home networking. This new application uses existing telephone wiring or radio-style receivers to link PCs within a home or small office, effectively creating a local area network. By year-end, some 280,000 households will use "no new wires" applications for in-home networking, according to Parks Associates, a residential technologies market research and consulting firm. By the end of 2000, that number should rise to 580,000; by 2004, it will approach 7 million.
Among the latest technologies are Intel's Anypoint Home PNA, an external product, or 3Com's HomeConnect Home Network Phoneline Kit and HomeConnect solutions. All priced between $79 and $150, the solutions use radio frequency transmission or existing phone jacks to deliver networking with easy setup and use. Dell's Dimension desktop PCs began shipping in November, packaged with the 3Com networking products.
Earlier this year, Microsoft and 3Com launched an alliance to create a common network. The resulting home networking kits and adaptors include Microsoft HomeClick network software that leads consumers through a series of simple setup steps. The PassPort Plug-In Network kit from Intelogis is another "no new wires" solution enabling multiple PCs to share printers, Internet connections and even games through the power line instead of a phone line.
"Dad can now do his online banking at the same time mom is checking her e-mail and Timmy is surfing the Internet," says Ryan Ashton, vice president of marketing for Intelogis. "Family members no longer have to argue over whose turn it is to be online."
"For many people with multiple PCs and the need for more than one Internet connection or printer, this will be the answer," adds Kurt Scherf, Parks' in-home network analyst. "Bottom line, it means peace of mind at a reduced cost."
Jeff Zbar is a homebased writer, speaker and author of Home Office Know-How (Upstart Publishing).