Media Servers to Increase Market

Flat-screen TVs were clearly the winners at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but bubbling under the surface at the trade show were signs that creating home networks using media servers to manage both audio and video content libraries will also soon hit the big time.

Confirming this hunch, market research and consulting firm Parks Associates (PA) predicts that "multimedia hubs" will reach mass-market status by the end of 2008, with more than 40 million units shipping to US households. The new, 90-page report, "Multimedia Networks in the Home: Analysis and Forecasts," includes profiles of potential audio/video platforms from both the PC and CE industries and examines the underlying factors that drive the growth of multimedia networking.

PA reports that the growing availability of digital content and simultaneous cost reductions in storage, processing, and home networking have spurred growth in new products designed to allow households to manage their entertainment content. "Devices such as personal video recorders, DVD recorders with hard-drive storage, online gaming consoles, and dedicated music servers will simultaneously drive growth of additional multimedia connectivity solutions," say the researchers.

PA's Kurt Scherf adds, "Multimedia hubs will be key interfaces to the digital content and services now entering mainstream households. Service providers, consumer electronics companies, and PC and peripheral manufacturers are responding to heightened consumer awareness and demand by deploying a wide variety of platforms to store, aggregate, and network content within the residential environment. We're quite optimistic about the sales outlook for these solutions in 2004 and 2005."

Coming on the heels of the PA report is news from Kodak spin-off Appairent Technologies claiming that the company will be the first to demonstrate a home-entertainment platform using the wireless IEEE 802.15.3 standard. The 802.15.3 standard was designed from the ground up by the IEEE's Task Group 3a to enable wireless multimedia communication in consumer electronic and PC products.

Appairent's new 802.15.3 platform is called the Transpairent Radio Evaluation System (TRES) and operates in the 2.4GHz band at data rates reported to reach 55Mb/s with throughput in excess of 42Mb/s. The company says that the TRES platform operates effectively in the presence of simultaneously operating microwave ovens, 2.4GHz cordless phones, 802.11 access points, and Bluetooth radios.