Home digital media servers are growing fast, driven by the growth in digital entertainment content and the maturing of key industry initiatives for media networking. A new study from ABI Research, "Home Media Servers and Entertainment Hubs," says this trend will drive a transformation of PCs and set-top boxes into whole-home media servers.
Driven by Microsoft, Intel and Apple efforts, the PC media server market alone will grow from U.S. $3.7 billion in 2006 to $44.8 billion by 2011, with mainstream PCs becoming fully functional media servers.
"With the arrival of faster in-home digital networking technologies such as MoCA, an industry-accepted framework for networked digital media distribution in DLNA, and the increase in both pay-TV and Internet content moving over in-home networks, the home media server is becoming a key beachhead in the digital home," said Principal Analyst Michael Wolf.
ABI Research believes that the digital media server will evolve into four main categories:
consumer electronics devices such as gaming consoles or PVRs
Network Attached Storage (NAS) hardware
Consumers will centralize much of their content on a media center PC, but ABI believes that the type of content will determine where the media is stored and served.
"Success stories in the PC camp, such as the approval of OCUR CableCard support in Windows Vista, will certainly mean some adoption of pay TV going over networks installed by consumers," said Wolf. "But we believe that the pay TV media server category will be dominated in the near- to medium-term by the set-top box, while the PC media server and consumer electronics categories will flourish as personal and Internet content media servers."
Other growing sectors will be PC aftermarket software, and embedded middleware for media servers. Vendors like Snapstream and Orb Networks are delivering software that allows consumers to create their own media servers, and DLNA middleware vendors like Mediabolic and DigiOn are creating media server software for OEMs across all media server categories. The embedded media server software market alone will see over 112 million software units shipped in 2011.
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