PC Not Expected To Be Crucial To Home Networks

Gartner predicts that networking functionality will soon become commonplace in consumer electronics, freeing entertainment-based home networks from the PC.
With networking functionality expected to become commonplace in consumer electronics, the PC will not be a crucial part of future home networks, a research firm said Wednesday.

The digital set-top box found in homes with pay TV is well placed to become a core component of an entertainment-based home network, Gartner said. Also, networking will be routinely embedded in consumer electronics in the next five to six years, whether consumers use it or not.

"The PC is an important part of the entertainment-based network, and most networks will contain one, but the PC is not a crucial part of the future home network," Gartner analyst Paul O'Donovan said in a statement. "Consumer electronics companies are aiming to build connectivity to components with or without the PC being present."

In North America, digital cable and Internet protocol TV will be the mainstay of entertainment-based home networking, Gartner predicted. In other regions, it will be a mixture of PC-based media centers, game consoles, DVD players and recorders, and pay-TV cable and IPTV set-top boxes.

Within U.S. homes, multiple coaxial sockets installed by pay-TV operators can be leveraged as IP networks to deliver services, Gartner said. In Europe, Japan, and Asia/Pacific, however, conditions are different. Few homes have multiple TV sockets, so wireless connectivity, using, for example, Wi-Fi spec 802.11n, is the most likely option.

Cable, satellite, and free-to-air TV service providers are expected to dominate, so IPTV operators, which are mostly telecom companies, will have to use bundled services to lure consumers. Those services would include broadband Internet access, mobile cellular services, and voice and IPTV services, including voice over IP, Gartner said

This combination of services can be networked around the home, offering flexibility. In addition, obtaining all the services from one company will be enticing for the average customer, the researcher said.