While the delivery of full-scale digital convergence into our homes is only a matter of time, just how long it will take is the $64,000 question. Optimistic members of the vendor community predict it is around the corner but others, such as GfK Australia's Gary Lamb, are far from convinced. The analyst firm's managing director produced some startling figures in this month's interview (see page 12 of the May 2006 Issue of ARN Home) to suggest it's going to be slow progress for the foreseeable future.
For example, he estimated Australians were still buying 250,000 video cassette recorders per year. That's about 5000 a week! While you have to ask yourself who these people are, and what their motivation is, it certainly doesn't bode well for widespread digital adoption.
The huge value of DVD software sales, about $1 billion per year according to GfK, is very revealing. The underlying message is that mass consumer adoption of any technology is bound very tightly to ease of use. Until the term 'plug and play' is applicable to the majority of these technologies, and it looks to be some way off yet in key areas like home networking, the digital lifestyle concept will be confined to early adopters.
This issue's lead feature looks at the rise and rise of the humble mobile phone (see page 4 of the May 2006 Issue of ARN Home). Once brick-sized gadgets found predominantly in executive cars, these smart and slinky little devices now play a central role in the everyday lives of most Australians. And although the market is approaching saturation, the good news for vendors and retailers alike is that most people are updating handsets at least every two years. Some, particularly in the youth market, are doing so every year because they must have the latest and greatest models complete with higher-resolution cameras, increased multimedia storage capacity and sexier designs.
But opinion is divided on just how disruptive mobile phones will be for other categories such as digital cameras and MP3 players. The Sharp 903 and recently released Sony Ericsson K800i both have built-in 3.2 megapixel cameras; while the imminent Sony Ericsson W950i will include 4GB of flash memory for storing digital music. Last year's Motorola ROKR E1 even supported Apple's all-conquering iTunes software, although it was limited to a 100-song capacity. Will it be the device to rule them all? Only time will tell.