Audio Networking Boom Ahead

A recent online poll indicates that a majority of Stereophile's online readers still don't like the idea of using computers when it comes to enjoying music. If a new report accurately predicts the future, they might as well get used to the rest of the world's booting up their tunes.

High-tech market research firm In-Stat/MDR is reporting that developments in computing, consumer electronics, and networking are combining to lead to an "explosive" new market enabling audio and video content to be transported around the home.

According to "Entertainment Anywhere: Multimedia Home Networking 2004," the new home entertainment network phenomenon is driven by new product categories such as media adaptors and networked disc players, as well as the continued development of networking protocols and technologies such as Ethernet, 802.11x and IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire or iLink).

In-Stat predicts that the value of networking connectivity in connected CE and PC devices will grow to nearly $5.7 billion by 2008. There will be rough spots, of course. The researchers caution that barriers such as content protection, legacy products, and the need for consumer education remain.

In-Stat indentifies four recent developments that support its assertions:
1) The formation last year of the Digital Home Working Group (DHWG), comprised of some of the biggest names in consumer electronics and personal computing. The group says it is defining a set of recommended standards for PC to consumer electronics networking, with its first guidelines to be published in early 2004.
2) The evolution of standards such as Ethernet, 802.11x, Ultra Wide Band, and 1394 that will enable multimedia home networking.
3) Microsoft's announcement of the first "whole-home" version of its Media Center edition.
4) New entrants from the PC world into the consumer electronics business, including Gateway and Intel, which should push established consumer electronics manufacturers.

The researchers say that they expect the entertainment home networking market to grow significantly as applications such as digital audio begin to see adoption while simultaneously a whole host of consumer electronics devices ship with embedded networking connectivity and processing capabilities.