Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pervasive Wi-Fi in New Consumer Devices


From the home, to coffee shops, to large universities, wireless access points and routers have made Wi-Fi available in practically every type of environment.

With this widespread availability, Wi-Fi is being embedded into many types of consumer electronic (CE) devices. Some categories, such as handheld gaming devices have flourished, while other devices have been slower to catch on, according to a market assessment by In-Stat.

Portable CE devices showed the strongest growth of embedded Wi-Fi. Presently, handheld gaming devices are the largest category, with market leaders Nintendo and Sony shipping over a combined forty million units in 2007. Online and multi-player games are driving the inclusion of Wi-Fi in these devices.

In-Stat expects the attachment rate of Wi-Fi in cellular handsets to increase significantly. Apple opened the door with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. In 2008, top vendors say that at least 50 percent their smartphone models will have Wi-Fi.

In stationary CE, gaming consoles have the largest percentage of Wi-Fi attachment. Two of the three major gaming console vendors include Wi-Fi in their current device and the third adds an adapter for an additional price.

Nintendo and Sony, again the market leaders, shipped over 27 million units in 2007. With all three gaming system vendors including Wi-Fi in their next generation of consoles, this category should continue to see strong growth.

The speed and bandwidth capabilities of 802.11n will drive the Wi-Fi success in stationary CE. Media adapters will surely benefit from the introduction of 802.11n. With the amount of video content available for download and the popularity of high definition televisions, media adapters will be essential for streaming this media from screen to screen.

Despite the growing popularity of Wi-Fi in CE, the popularity of some devices is still up in the air (no pun intended). Although every major printer vendor has released a model with embedded Wi-Fi, there has not been broad market acceptance.

In addition, Portable Media Players (PMP) with Wi-Fi showed promise, but high prices, competitive technologies, and limited capabilities may have caused these devices to slow presently. Wi-Fi embedded PMPs accounted for less than 3 percent of overall shipment numbers for 2007.