Consumer Electronics Companies Still Wait for Media Hubs to Take Off

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YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- Every week MediaWorks’ Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week: Digital Living Room

What it is: Call it the ultimate couch potato creator. The theory goes that as consumers get used to time-shifting and place-shifting their content, including everything from music to movies to business databases, they’ll feel more comfortable accessing it all from their couches.

Who’s using it: Not many average consumers. Even though the idea has been pushed for years, few consumers have yet to bite. Digital Joy, a joint marketing effort launched by Intel and Microsoft last November, fell flat. According to Ipsos Insight Research, the digital den is very much still up for grabs with only one in three consumers even familiar with the concept. Better news, though, is once they understand it, some 57% say they would be interested in owning a media hub.

The first problem: Everyone wants to “own” it. Computer makers, electronics manufacturers, software providers, phone and cable providers and even Hollywood media companies all want to control the digital-home consumer experience.

The second problem: It takes a small army to hook this stuff up. As technology goes, this is about as unfriendly as you can get. Beyond the tangle of wires, there are multiple standards that vary from manufacturer to manufacturer -- which means your Apple iPod may or may not work with your Sony flat-screen TV, which may or may not work with your Dell Media Center PC ... well, you get the idea.

The prognosis: Even though consumers are slow to adopt the digital living room, there’s a huge and powerful contingent that wants to make it happen (except maybe the Hollywood set, who tend to get stymied by digital media rights). Still, with heavyweights like Intel, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, TiVo, Dell and Hewlett-Packard -- and recently a rumored push by Apple -- a longer-than-expected wait will still yield an eventual shift.

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