Keep It Simple, Not Stupid

Opinion: Will this year bring an easy yet powerful home network?

Ah, a new year. This year Im not going to CES, but eWeek has enough editors and reporters at the Las Vegas event to give the show a good going over. Check out for ongoing coverage.

So, what am I missing? In particular, what are you missing? If you are looking for bigger televisions, more ways to transport and play important content such as really amateur videos from YouTube, privacy-protected music that makes Microsofts Zune and Apples iPod everlastingly incompatible, and massive speakers that will enable your car to be heard from the next state, then you should have made that trek to Las Vegas.

But if you are looking for products and applications that will help your business grow in this new year, then CES is not the place for you. In an era of very narrowly focused trade shows, Web sites racing to become the next evolution of network television, and a blogosphere that seems to dwell more and more on bloggers talking about other bloggers talking about bloggers, Id like to offer up this simple wish list for business products needed in 2007. (See my blog at for an expanded wish list.)

RSS. No, not the syndicated news readers. Im talking about really simple security. Despite all the investment in computer security, its still very difficult for a business manager to come into work in the morning and know whether the companys computers have been hacked, spammed, zombied or otherwise compromised. While you can easily see if someone left a door ajar or forgot to turn off the lights, computer security is still a world of reports, incompatible security products and an uneasy feeling that while you slept, hackers figured out a new way to bust down your firewall. I dont see this situation improving much via Microsofts Windows Vista. I do see hope in the use of thin-client computing to keep the network dumb where it needs to be dumb and smart where it can be best protected.

Web 2.0. And, again, Im not talking about that Web 2.0 world where everyone shares everyones information and then wonders why they have no privacy. Im talking about simple hosted applications where a company can easily add customer relationship management, financial applications or human resource capabilities in a quick, secure manner while ensuring that private data remains available only to those who should have access to it. Id give a lot of credit for moving this concept forward to Mark Benioff at, but his ego is already sufficiently large. I think Zach Nelson over at NetSuite (and, no, I dont have any financial interest in the companys upcoming IPO) has an approach that best integrates all business operations. This should have been fertile ground for Microsoft, but the company has been too busy with games, music and getting Vista out the door.

Simply green. Theres a lot of venture capital going into recycling, alternate fuels and alternate vehicles. Just as it is time for really simple security, I think it is time for really simple energy management. That same manager who wants to check the status of security in the building also should be able to check the status of energy usage and management at his or her company.

Simple networks. Maybe Cisco can deliver on this promise. Businesses need networks that are simple to construct, expand and administer and let you add resources, VOIP (voice over IP), security and storage. Somewhere in the rush to make speed the overriding attribute of an advanced network, the idea of adding simplicity was lost. Of the products and services being shown at CES this year, the concepts surrounding simple home networks may be the most transferable to business.

A lot of effort and money around consumer electronics has gone into developing home video and audio networks that are easy to expand and move about and that embrace many media formats. Maybe this will be the year that the promise of an easy yet powerful home network will finally come to fruition. Once that happens, a simple network for business cannot be far behind. And why in this age of EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized) and other wireless networks, shouldnt business travelers be able to take along their network the same way they take a portable computer on the road?

Editorial Director Eric Lundquist can be reached at