It is evident that the networked home has arrived. Home networking activity is growing alongside broadband uptake and home users are enjoying the benefits of enhanced convenience and entertainment. A digital networked home can now provide consumers with the ability to easily create, manage, store and share content.

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Recent reports have predicted that by the end of this year, about 8.7 million home networks will be in place in the US, compared with 4.5 million at the end of 2003. With predictions that the global market will grow from $1.8 billion in 2002 to $5.3 billion in 2007, the networked home concept is beginning to affect traditional technology, as convergence between the PC and the TV accelerates.

The networked home offers opportunities for every company in the consumer technology marketplace. The market has already started to gain mass acceptance in the form of broadband and will take another step forward in 2004, as the first real move toward a converged home network begins.

Many technologies are competing to be the hub of the digital home. Modern PC’s aim to be the ultimate home entertainment system. However, the PC industry faces stiff competition from consumer electronics, cable and telecom industries, all of which are eager to create a similar function for their technologies.

PC’s have the huge advantage of being multi-purpose. Not only do they become the centre of communications in the home, with email and voice and traditional functions such as accounting and word processing, but entertainment-led media center capabilities are also provided. People would rather keep their images, video and personal data on their PC than trust a cable or telecoms company with their digital files.

As more consumers implement the idea of a networked home, there is a wide range of technology available to create true digital convergence. Consumers can now use a PC based home media center to consolidate a wide range of functions across a common interface. Live TV can now be paused or recorded through the PC and digitally recorded content can be stored on one PC and viewed on a PC or TV in another room across a network. These technologies create an affordable and user-friendly experience so it is no wonder that items such as the VCR and CD player are gradually being phased out.

These new media center devices offer a level of convenience that cannot be achieved with traditional technology. Using a PC as the hub of the home with technology such as Home Media Network’s ShowShifter, can meet both entertainment and work requirements alike

With predictions that there will be more than 28 million networked homes in the US by the end of 2008 (CyberAtlas), it is possible that traditional technology such as the VCR and the set-top box will gradually disappear and be replaced by all-encompassing home networks. Who will be the leader in this market though? That remains to be seen this year, but the PC definitely has the capabilities to become the hub of the digital home.