The Next Frontier
Mention Internet Protocol (IP) to plenty of custom audio and video installers and you’ll likely solicit a slew of reactions, some of which may not be very kind. While IT professionals have long been hip to digital comeuppance, plenty of CE dealers aren’t necessarily ready to toss aside their speaker wire for what they see as nothing more than a glorified computer network. Whether one likes it or not, this difference of opinion nevertheless signals an important change in the industry compared to just a few short years ago, when the idea of IP-based home entertainment was considered far more theoretical than practical.
“At first, we were getting guys from the A/V industry running scared,” says Petro Shimonishi, vice president of marketing at NetStreams, maker of IP-based DigiLinX. “They would say, ‘We don’t know how to compete.’ And guys with backgrounds in IT were talking to us about becoming authorized A/V dealers.” The common thread between the industry pros was the customer, who wanted both home theater and PC networking. “We have seen in some markets, the IT guy becomes good friends with the A/V guy and they team up,” says Shimonishi.
With more than 22 percent of U.S. homeowners estimated as having home theater systems, according to Parks Associates, a market research and consulting firm, more and more CE manufacturers are looking to IP to deliver wireless audio across a standardized network. This isn’t to say that most systems don’t still distribute audio the old-fashioned way: to an amplifier via speaker wire or radio frequency. But as more networks take their cue from the PC, home entertainment is looking a lot more like something out of the IT world.