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Portable Media Player Use in the Automobile

The rise of Portable Media Players (PMPs) and downloadable content is compelling car makers and their electronics suppliers to rethink 'automotive infotainment' by adding connectivity to what have been standalone audio and video systems.

Consumer demand for traditional in-vehicle infotainment systems such as CD players is declining in favor of products that support downloadable content, such as the Apple iPod. To accommodate this trend, auto makers are embracing connectivity as a means to bridge the gap between cars and the new-generation of multimedia consumer electronics products.

According to iSuppi, the easiest way these companies can accomplish this is by supporting the most widely accepted protocols: wired USB and wireless Bluetooth. These connectivity gateways are set to generate a major market for both consumer electronics manufacturers and the automotive industry, while giving consumers what they have been demanding from their automotive infotainment systems.

Fueled by the desire for connectivity, as well as for the support of new delivery formats, the overall automotive infotainment market will grow to $53.8 billion in 2012, achieving a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7 percent from $38.3 billion in 2006, iSuppli predicts. Those involved in manufacturing the semiconductors associated with these new forms of automotive infotainment will stand to gain substantially as well.

"Many newly enabled technologies in automotive infotainment will be driven by opportunities created by silicon suppliers," said Richard Robinson, principal analyst for automotive electronics at iSuppli. "These suppliers will see their revenue expand to nearly $7 billion by 2012, up from $4.1 billion in 2006, and that's a huge growth opportunity."

While many connectivity applications are still in development, iSuppli believes that their release will result in wins for automakers, semiconductor suppliers and buyers. With their eyes on the growth potential of the infotainment market, traditionally conservative U.S. companies such Ford Motor Co. and General Motors will begin to offer 'digital connectivity solutions' in 2007 with an aggressive roll-out into all vehicles by 2008.

These companies are moving forward with connectivity solutions primarily because of the growth potential that they see in the automotive infotainment market, but also out of fear of being left behind by their competitors. However, my perspective differs from iSuppli, since I believe that consumers will favor purchasing fully mobile multimedia player devices, and be less inclined to invest in the typical built-in systems that are favored by automobile designers.

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