To help you prepare for this years new technology developments, Ive decided to share my top five predictions for 2008. Measure each one against your own experience to decide how you want them to guide your own business decisions.
Apple will continue to extend its technical prowess throughout the home. Riding on the enormous success of its iPod music player and the iPhoneexpect to see Apples genius for user-friendly interfaces to spread into flat-screen televisions and whole-house music systems. As Apple moves from mobile and single-room solutions to whole-house distributed entertainment solutions, they will increasingly serve the mass market with these products. The net effect will be that even a greater percentage of the U.S. residential market will become aware of whole-house digital entertainment solutions and many will be seeking custom electronic integrators help to deliver on the promise of these offerings.
More affordable, high-performance, in-wall touchscreen controls will become readily available. Over the past decade or so, these touchscreens have been primarily used in high-end, high-budget, whole-house control offerings. Control4 changed that market a couple of years ago with the introduction of its sub-$700 in-wall touchscreen control interfaces, and I expect this trend to continue with higher resolution and larger screens from a number of major electronics manufacturers. With increased processing power and higher resolutions, these touchscreens will have very rich end-user interfaces that are much more affordable for our clients.
Home servers will be an integral part of most of our total home integration offerings. HP has just started shipping its home server line of computers, and it is inevitable that the home will have a server. Our clients are asking us for more services than just e-mail, print, and Internet access. They now want servers for their photos, music, and data storage backup, as well as a server from which they can easily access their homes content when they are traveling on the road. Products like HPs home server are just the beginning of this trend toward computer-based home serving productsa boost for our industry because most of these will require professional installation for clients to get the greatest value from these solutions.
We will move from switching analog signals to switching digital signals around the home. RS232-based component analog switches will yield to RS232-based HDMI switches, and ultimately to gigabit data packet switches. The primary hurdle to this movement is digital rights management; we simply cant get all of our high-definition content legally recorded on hard drives that are connected to the home network and the Internet. Once that hurdle is overcome, then expect that all high-definition audio/video content will reside in a server, which will send its content across the gigabit switched network to TVs, computers, laptops, and other mobile electronic platforms throughout the home.
Televisions will get smarter. HP and Pioneer are already shipping flat-screen televisions with ethernet ports to easily gain access to the homes audio and video content without requiring a separate set-top box decoder to be locally installed in the room. As more and more clients prefer the clean look of just a flat-screen TV on the wall without the plethora of high tech boxes surrounding this monitor these all-in-one data decoder/TV solutions will gain greater and greater appeal. This architecture plays right into our expertise since it requires the design, installation, and control of a centralized media server distributing content to in-wall integrated display screens throughout the home.
Please email your predictions to me, and I will keep them throughout the year and this time next year I will give credit to those with the best crystal ball. This year promises to be a great one in our channel for those of us willing to learn and embrace the promise of these new technologies. They will require sophisticated custom electronics integration expertise.