Around the globe, consumers and other users are increasingly demanding round-the-clock or total connectivity to the Internet, says Tim Handley, southern African marketing manager for VIA Technologies.
"As people learn more about the Internet and its usefulness, they want to spend more time on the web," he explains. "Around the world, the cost of being connected is slowly starting to come down and soon broadband will be affordably available internationally, which is when the trend will really take off."
Handley adds that this trend is being supported by companies like VIA, which is focusing much of its attention on designing and producing more affordable connectivity systems for the home and office.
The demand for total connectivity is being driven by the likes of small office-home office (SOHO) and home network users, who want round-the-clock Internet access to enjoy the vast resources of the Internet as well as being connected to various devices at the same time, many of these via wireless technology.
Handley argues that the basis of successful total connectivity is broadband, which is a better solution than dial-up because it is cheaper - running 24 hours a day - and faster. "Dial-up will soon be outdated and insufficient," he says.
Asked about South Africa, which is currently dominated by a monopoly situation and high Internet charges, Handley admits that the cost of connecting via dial-up in SA is making things difficult for total connectivity to take off. Not only is the monopoly situation a major set-back for education, but it also reduces the economic and personal benefits of technology.
"From a marketing perspective, think of all the people that you could reach if everyone was on line all the time," he adds. "Faster connections also vastly enhance the Internet experience by making downloading faster and more reliable - not to mention streaming. This, in turn, makes computing more exciting and stimulates the market considerably."
But he is optimistic that as technology improves and the SA market continues to grow, the cost of the Internet will become more affordable. He also points out that users will be increasingly connecting to the Internet using devices other than PCs. These include broadband gateways, audio/video servers, set-top boxes, and entertainment stations, as well as Web Pads and Tablet PCs and other smaller, connectivity systems.
Handley is also adamant that the failure of Internet Appliances (IA) such as 3Com's web surfing Audrey - the 'lifestyle-centred connected appliance' that featured one-touch access to e-mail and Internet channels - is not indicative of the lack of demand for simplified appliances that will provide round-the-clock connectivity.
"Due to the economic downturn earlier in 2001, many companies abandoned their Internet Appliance projects because nobody in the market was willing to take the risk and try out something new when they were experiencing cut-backs on their spending money," he says. "A major problem behind most of these devices was the price. Audrey was priced at between $400 and $600. That was far too close to the entry level PC price, so there was not any real advantage to spending that money. Another problem was that, unlike now, broadband Internet access was not all that well known a year ago."
Handley says there are four main reasons for the time being right for such small, affordable connectivity systems. The first is that the world is on the brink of economic recovery, which means the time is right to initiate new products; secondly, there is no end to the 'Internet boom', with the Internet becoming more popular every day; and thirdly, the market is becoming more educated about PC systems.
"It is becoming increasingly difficult to convince someone to pay for a 2 GHz system if all they want to do is surf the net and e-mail their mates," he asserts.
For more information, contact Tim Handley, VIA Technologies firstname.lastname@example.org
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