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Growth of Digital Media Servers in the Home

The growth in digital entertainment content and the maturing of key industry initiatives for media networking are fueling the popularity of digital media servers in the home, according to a new study from ABI Research.

These trends will result in the transformation of existing products such as PCs and set-tops into whole-home media servers. Driven by the efforts of Microsoft, Intel and Apple, the PC media server market alone will grow from $3.7 billion in 2006 to $44.8 billion by 2011 as mainstream PCs become 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," says principal analyst Michael Wolf.

ABI Research believes that the digital media server will evolve into four main categories: PCs, set-top boxes, consumer electronics devices such as gaming consoles or PVRs, and Network Attached Storage (NAS) hardware. While in coming years many consumers will centralize much of their content on a Media Center PC, ABI Research believes that the determining factor will be the type of content.

"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," says 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 such as Snapstream and Orb Networks are delivering software allowing consumers to create their own media servers, and DLNA middleware vendors such as 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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