The demand for networked audio devices will lead to a US$10+ billion market by 2015, the result of a 2009-2015 compound annual growth rate of more than 32 per cent.

Wi-Fi and Ethernet are the most common connectivity standards, and data from ABI Research suggests that wireless options will boost consumer demand.

Manufacturers and retailers educating the consumer, however, is considered vital for this growth to occur.

For today’s audiophile, the traditional home entertainment component rack holding CD player, tape deck, tuner, amplifier, equalizer and turntable is increasingly archaic.

According to ABI Research practice director Jason Blackwell, “Today it’s all about bringing audio content from other sources and distributing it around the home.

“So many people have music on their PCs as well as on MP3 players and other portable devices (not to mention Internet radio) that it’s just a small step to using the PC or a dedicated device as a server to send that content to other locations in the home.”

“Audio is still a viable device category,” Blackwell notes. “Networked audio had for some time taken a back seat to distributed video solutions within the home, but the market opportunities for networked audio devices are once again showing resurgence.”

Huge numbers of vendors are involved, ranging from traditional networking companies such as D-Link to specialized firms such as Sonos, which has built a solid reputation for dedicated networked audio devices.

Traditional CE vendors such as Philips and smaller players such as Grace Digital Audio round out the vendor landscape.

One obstacle facing this market is consumers’ lack of understanding about the possibilities. Retailers have a role to play here by featuring networked audio prominently and providing as much education as possible. Vendors should also remember that consumers have a threshold for purchases of CE devices, which must be accounted for when pricing devices and systems.

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