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Home Net Users Need Simplicity, by Design

Consumers are moving beyond basic PC-to-PC digital home networks as they look to connect new devices to their network -- to access and share the growing array of digital content from the Internet, as well as from their own digital media devices.

While just a few years ago most consumer networks had only PCs on them, the growth in non-PC devices on the network has been significant. In a survey of online households in the United States, ABI Research has found that over 26 percent had a game console connected to their home network, 10 percent had a network storage device, and another 8 percent had some form of set-top box connected to their home network.

"The growth in non-PC devices on the home network continues as consumers look to access digital entertainment and community services being deployed over the Internet," says research director Mike Wolf.

"The growth in streaming music services such as Rhapsody, the positioning of popular video services such as YouTube for non-PC devices, and a host of other content-related services have created a surge in interest in going beyond the traditional PC-to-PC network."

The PC vendors are not sitting still, however. While the market for home theater PCs has been fairly moribund in the U.S., other countries have seen greater interest in living room PC form factors.

In Japan, PC-TV hybrids have garnered significant consumer interest for the living room, and in the United Kingdom, Media Center PCs with TV tuners as an alternative to Freeview set-top boxes have also seen consumer adoption.

"The push in the consumer electronics, PC, and set-top box markets to enable IP connectivity for premium, user-generated and personal content distribution has been significant and can only be expected to grow," adds Wolf.

"The challenge will be one of finding ways to bring together the pay-TV, IP and home content domains into an interface that is easy for consumers to navigate -- and to make management of these devices simple and easy to troubleshoot."

Naturally, I'm in total agreement with that statement. The window of opportunity is wide open, as common home networking oxymoron terms like "plug-and-play" and "easy-to-use" are plastered over the packing of these consumer electronics products. Home network users desperately need products that deliver true simplicity, by design.

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