By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Pure Networks is expanding the scope of its Network Magic software to include more parental controls, home-network analysis and the company is starting to work with TV manufacturers to ensure their products are network capable.
These moves are part of the company's long-term plan to become more of a network-support business then a network-software maker, said Jeff Erwin, Pure Networks' CEO. This changeover started this month with the release of Network Magic 4.1. The latest version gives parents the ability to track in detail how their computers are interacting with the Internet and a tool that keeps the user up to date on different aspects of their network.
The parental advisor, called Network Reports, will e-mail a report to parents each morning indicating where their child's PC went on the Web. The data will include Web sites visited and how much bandwidth the computer used, Irwin said. The Net Advisor tool, while not capable of diagnosing PC problems, will tell the user basic facts such as if their printer is running low on ink or if their anti-virus software needs updating.
Irwin said these tools are needed now more then ever because of the increasing number of IP devices being brought into homes and the fact that a family can no longer afford to have their network down.
"Home networking has now become a mission critical system, and we need to identify and fix consumer problems," Erwin said, because most consumers still do not know how to maintain their system, nor do they intend to learn.
Another aspect hindering home network is also one of the primary reasons they have become so popular: low price. Irwin said home-network equipment makers have to keep prices low to drive sales, which means the products are of a lower quality and reliability then more expensive models.
The next step being taken will be implemented this summer when Pure Networks adds enhanced automatic Internet and network-connection repair, in depth multi-device network diagnostics and historical views of network activity to their software. Later in 2007 the company will expand the idea of family networking outside the home by enabling outside Network Magic home networks to connect together.
While Pure Networks is not losing sight of its bread-and-butter business, it is beginning to move into other areas, such as enabling CE devices to easily integrate into home networks. Erwin said a fear among CE vendors is that their products will not be properly installed and integrated into a home network, thus leading to the return of a perfectly good, if improperly installed, products — something many expect to happen as more content becomes available via the Internet, he said.
Pure Networks is now talking with at least one TV manufacturer about implanting the company's networking protocols into upcoming CE products. These protocols will make them instantly recognizable to a Network Magic-based system; however, the most important benefit is that Network Magic software will tell the consumer whether or not everything is properly installed.
"If there is a problem, Network Advisor will tell them what is wrong," Erwin said.
If this proposed segment of the business takes off, Irwin can foresee the day when most of his company's revenues are generated from licensing its software to CE manufactures and not the retail sale of networking software.
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