Consumer electronics equipment is being transformed by networking technology, according to a study released today.
ABI Research said that the sector is in the midst of a "major shift" as Wi-Fi networking becomes a key enabler for the delivery and redistribution of entertainment content in the home.
The analyst firm forecasts that the total number of Wi-Fi enabled consumer electronics devices will grow from just 40 million shipped in 2006 to nearly 249 million in 2011.
"From the enormous interest in online gaming, to the rapid emergence of new internet distribution channels for top-tier movie and TV content, the need for connectivity in mainstream consumer electronics is growing rapidly," said ABI research director Michael Wolf.
While the consumer Wi-Fi market has consisted largely of routers, gateways and adapters, ABI Research believes that as the market evolves towards digital distribution its growth will be fuelled by the inclusion of embedded Wi-Fi in consumer electronics.
The Zune media player from Microsoft is expected to signal the beginning of a "large scale movement" towards embedded Wi-Fi in portable media players, while camera vendors such as Nikon, Kodak and Canon have all embraced Wi-Fi in their products.
Line-powered devices such as gaming consoles, DVD players and audio receivers are all expected to see "high attach rates" for Wi-Fi during the forecast period.
"The development of a market for Wi-Fi enabled consumer electronics has been hampered by technology limitations such as power consumption," said senior ABI analyst Philip Solis.
"But it has also been delayed by consumer electronics vendors' hesitation as they waited to see what would happen with 802.11n.
"With the 802.11n standard set to be ratified in a little over a year, the Wi-Fi Alliance's decision to certify solutions based on a draft 2.0 for 802.11n, and vendors' intentions to release products based on current Wi-Fi protocols, this market is set for growth."
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