Table of Contents For This Issue
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News about People and Companies influencing The Broadband Home
South Korea has been a broadband success story, hitting 67% household penetration in 2002 and outpacing other countries around the globe. The critical mass of consumers using broadband in Korea provides a living laboratory in which to observe the factors (including population density, pricing, applications, competition and government policy) contributing to its explosive broadband growth.
During a November visit to South Korea, I learned about how users got hooked on the broadband experience and the early role Internet cafes played in making broadband applications fashionable and fun. I met with companies in different parts of the broadband ecosystem and experienced Korean broadband firsthand.
Everywhere we turned at CES we saw the influence of broadband, home networking and wireless. If those words immediately conjure up visions of PCs and Internet access, think again. This year they apply at least as much to audio and video entertainment and the ways in which users can get what they want, when and where they want it. Whether it's in the form of zapping HDTV pictures to flat screen displays, viewing recorded TV shows on screens in a different room, or cataloging, organizing and making all your music available around the home, companies were showing how to make it happen.
We saw lots of media networking at CES, letting users record and store pictures, music and video on one device and playing it on another device in a different room. We saw proprietary approaches, multi-vendor approaches, and some pointing toward interoperability.
Bill Gates' opening talk at CES barely mentioned PCs. Instead, he talked about watches, exercise bikes, sewing machines and magnets -- with a focus on SPOT.
It's natural to focus on the "toys" at CES -- the products which are the result of all the new technologies being developed. But underneath these products are the critical chips that make possible the small form factors, low power consumption, reliable data communication and consumer-priced products. We visited with some key chip makers to look under the covers and judge what's coming next.
CES is all about technology. But technology needs to get off exhibit floors and into real homes. Two impediments have been getting home builders to incorporate the underlying wiring and helping consumers translate from jargon like "Digital Media Receiver with built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking" to consumer-friendly terms like the "Music Lover" package. The NextGen Demonstration Home and Pulte Homes new agreement with Best Buy give us hope that those things are starting to change.
We're seeing signs that broadband wireless access to the home is on its way to becoming a viable way to compete against (or complement) DSL and cable broadband. Technologies to send broadband data from a central point to the home, through the air, reliably and cost-effectively, seem to be emerging. We attended the WCA conference in San Jose to get a better understanding of the key issues and a sense for how real an impact this technology will have.
We used HomePlug to solve an audio networking problem: how to connect our AudioTron into our PC network when there's no Ethernet outlet near our main audio system. We also report on recent tests of two new ST&T adapters.
A reader wrote to clarify last month's guest article.