Leaning Toward the Low
End"> Companies are purchasing low-cost wireless solutions rather than implementing large-scale infrastructure and hardware upgrades. Such solutions include notebooks, WLAN cards, PDAs, and related software. Larger companies seem to favor notebooks with integrated wireless LANs while smaller firms are tending to purchase add-on WLAN cards for existing notebooks. Specific wireless products that a company needs to reach minimum wireless capability include wireless-enabled notebooks, WLAN cards, tablet PCs and/or wireless PDAs, depending on the work environment. In some cases, some network access points would need to be spread about the facility, probably hooking into the existing and primary fixed wired network. There is respectable growth in such early stage", less expensive wireless technologies. However, such low-end solutions constitute a smaller portion of the long-term wireless opportunity; the lions share of the growth opportunity lies with the more extensive, and lucrative, network upgrades (which are discussed in Part 2).Tablet PCs are likely to feature prominently in environments like medicine where real time communication and easy use will matter. Education and media were two other sectors where companies indicated interest in increasing their wireless budgets. Companies in the distribution and wholesale industries have also been spending on wireless technologies. These four industries arent usually "sit at your desk" type businesses, and WLAN can enhance efficiency in such mobile, project situations. ROI horizons for investment in wireless technologies are running relatively short at one-to-two years. Corporate IT customers are taking more time to analyze their spending decisions than in the last few years. There is increasing pressure to optimize returns on IT investments considering the ongoing weakness in the economy. This elongates the IT sell cycle as CFOs, CTOs and corporate Boards become more involved in spending decisions. ROI is part of the reason. The benefits from wireless IT are tough, and very "soft", to measure since the savings and returns on investment are largely measured in enhanced leverage of expensive employee time.
It is difficult to generalize by industry which companies have more interest in WLAN. It is more the matter of a particular work style (one where workers are highly mobile). In general, increased wireless spending has been occurring at companies with: 1) a dispersed, project work environment, 2) higher revenues, 3) highly mobile employees, and 4) higher needs for real-time access to data. Healthcare companies are among those that have been increasing wireless IT spending. This makes sense since there is a greater need for wireless technology to transmit "real time" information between medical professionals who are often mobile.