Wired and wireless networking products are on tap from the software giant. But in such a crowded market, is there room for Microsoft?
6 min read
Microsoft plans to release new wired and wireless networking products Thursday into the crowded and hypercompetitive consumer hardware market.
The Redmond, Wash.-based company plans to market five consumer
The analysts point to Microsoft's less-than-stellar track record for selling consumer hardware as reason to question the strategy.
"When you look at Microsoft's hardware business, they haven't done great," said NPDTechworld analyst Stephen Baker. "They've not done poorly, but they've not been able to storm the beaches and take over any market, so to speak."
The computing titan's hardware failures include a 900MHz cordless phone and USB speakers. The company also markets the Xbox game console, joysticks and other gaming gear, as well as a line of keyboards and mice.
"Microsoft hasn't blown anybody away," Baker said. "In fact, Logitech has gone toe-to-toe with Microsoft for years (with keyboards and mice) and has done pretty well."
Still, Microsoft is jumping into the home networking market at an important time. Cahners In-Stat predicts a huge jump in worldwide home networks, 16.6 million in 2002 from 10.5 million in 2001. In a summer survey conducted with HomeNetHelp.com, the research group found that 45 percent of respondents without a home network said that they planned to purchase one within three months. Another 45 percent said they would buy networking gear within six months.
The company also sees other important reasons for getting into the home networking market. Many products planned for later this year, such as
Mira smart displays--mobile Web appliances that access the Internet through a PC--require a wireless connection to work. Tablet PC also depends on wireless connectivity. Through Windows Media Player 9 Series, Microsoft hopes to deliver broadband digital media services, such as music from PressPlay and movies through CinemaNow. The new media player, which is currently in the final
"This (networking product strategy) derives from our concentration on getting information on any device at any time, as well as our initiative to get software and services more broadly distributed in the home," said Adam LeVasseur, group product manager for Microsoft's Consumer Hardware Division.
Yet there's a bottleneck in getting these ideas adopted in the mainstream market, LeVasseur said. The company concluded that one problem came from networking products that are too difficult to use, "and that's a barrier to adoption," LeVasseur added. Microsoft believes its new networking products will simplify the process.
Supporting products such as Tablet PC with home networking gear could mean more to Microsoft in the long run than actual sales, analysts say.
"Microsoft needs an infrastructure to tie all its product stuff together. This is laying the big pipes...the network infrastructure for the home," said Gartner analyst Mike McGuire.
Fierce wireless competition
Microsoft's larger sales battle will be fought in the 802.11b wireless networking, or
Get the CNET Mobile newsletter
Discover the latest news and best reviews in smartphones and carriers from CNET' mobile experts.