Changes ahead for the home entertainment and control market
From 1991 to 2001, I covered enterprise IT, which is a fancy name for corporate computer networks. Over the course of that decade, I saw a sea change in how businesses handled voice, video and data. Today, I see similar changes heading for the home entertainment and control market. And with those impending changes come the requisite early warnings.
When I first started covering IT, corporate networks were largely based on highly secure mainframe computers. These mainframes communicated with dumb terminals at end users' desks, using proprietary networking technologies to do so. PCs were viewed as potentially dangerous interlopers that could taint the otherwise tightly-controlled waters of the information system.
Around 1995, the internet and the world wide web changed everything. Browsers were being downloaded onto corporate networks. Workers started demanding PCs with local storage. Microsoft, sensing an opportunity, courted the enterprise IT market. "Your employees want PCs," their reasoning went. "Best, then, that our servers run your network too." Much upheaval ensued.
Powering this intersection of PCs, IT and the internet was the underlying TCP/IP protocol, which carries traffic from point A to point B. Now, IP is spilling into the home entertainment and control market, and trust me, it's not going away. In fact, it will be the air this market breathes before long, just as it is in corporate IT.
Here's the early warning. Many of the old mainframe programmers, corporate longtimers who always figured they were set for life, were quickly and rudely kicked to the curb as companies brought on college kids and other younger blood that possessed the kind of intimate knowledge of Windows and IP suddenly required to run their networks.
Now, I'm not predicting that if you don't get hip to IP in the next 12 months, your business will crumble as a bunch of 20-somethings steal your client base. I'm just saying that IP creates a wider playing field and presents a wealth of opportunities for those who are savvy and innovative enough to take advantage of a proven technology that can transform this space. Think of IP as a tool that our industry's visionaries and just plain smart businesspeople will leverage to make the digital home possible—more cheaply and with more versatility and possibilities than ever imagined before.