Channelling 2006: Your predictions for what lies ahead

Channelling 2006: Your predictions for what lies ahead

Rethink hardware

Fernandes forecast Intel and AMD's 64-bit processors would help to keep PC sales ticking over consistently next year.

The release of Microsoft's Windows Vista, expected in the latter part of the year, would also cause a resurgence of interest in the PC market by giving people an excuse to dump their two- or three year-old systems, he said.

"Users will have to rethink their PC hardware," Fernandes said.

He predicted 2006 would also be the year for gaming, with the forthcoming release of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 shifting the focus back into that technology sector. But he didn't think the two consoles would help improve uptake of the Media Center PC, and claimed that MCE sales would continue to be low into 2006. "I think these consoles will actually cause people to turn away from MCE," he said.

"Both offer high-definition video, so consumers will opt to blow $500 or $600 on these, and forget the Media PC. They could spend the extra on a plasma screen instead. I don't know anyone who is getting return on MCE."

But Netgear director of partnerships and services, Ryan Parker, claimed Xbox 360 would assist in driving consumer interest towards an integrated digital home platform.

While home convergence technology had been more talk than take-up in 2005, he suggested consumers would start to direct their dollars towards these types of products in the second half of the New Year.

Broadband penetration would drive this transition, along with a larger breadth of content and applications.

"The jigsaw puzzle pieces weren't all there this year," he said. "Today, when you talk about digital home buyers you are talking about households with extraordinary incomes. This only represents a small percentage of the Australian population. It's got to get easier, be more cost-effective and offer more content and applications.

"This year we were restricted to major brands, so the price point was prohibitive for the consumer."

Harvey Norman general manager of computers, Rutland Smith, was confident Media Center PC sales would grow, while the games console business would be invigorated by broader adoption of the PlayStation Portable and Xbox 360 devices.

He also singled out wireless broadband as another fast growing category next year, and a key focus for the retailer.

"2006 will be a similar year to 2005, as we continue to move towards the digital home," he said. "It's an education process - as customers become more aware of what this is, the technology will gain further appeal."

Parker predicted next year would also see VoIP gather momentum in the home and SMB space.

"A lot of people have been talking about it this year, but this hasn't translated into the take-up everyone has anticipated," he said. "There hasn't been any shortage of marketing from the likes of Engin and GoTalk to raise awareness. But the general consumer is hesitant and isn't seeing the benefits. I think it will start to increase mid-year."

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