Making Audio Work
Friedman of Bay Audio observes that there are likely a lot fewer iPod households that may be apparent from the numbers, when viewed at face value. "People who have one buy a second and then a third one. It doesn't mean that they, all of a sudden, became audiophiles. I also think that those who felt iPods would kill the digital music server market are wrong. I don't believe those guys' sales have suffered. They're mutually exclusive issues. It's just another format, with a magical interface that people react to. That's what people are buying."
"What sources like iPod, XM and Sirius have done," says Detmer, "is provide the end user with a wonderful stream of entertainment tailored the way they want it to be. That's really important. But people do want more than personal electronics in their home." Ideally, if they are shown what is possible, Detmer says, "they would like to have their iPod or XM or Sirius in every room, where they wouldn't have to move the device to the next room" - which makes the case for distributed audio.
"As far as distributed audio goes," says Wexler, "everybody building a home and almost every whole-house system we're doing involves some kind of networking or wiring. People sort of get it, and are a little confused about what they exactly want, but they know what they want to accomplish and don't know what they need to do to make it happen. Because of their Internet research, their questions are certainly more on point than they have been in the past."
IP-based audio distribution still has a way to go to become a top-of-mind alternative among clients who buy through traditional audio channels, because its success is dependent upon c-tailers, who are themselves just getting up to speed, says NetStreams' vice president of marketing, Petro Shimonishi. "Currently," she says, "less of our business is done through hybrid c-tailers, because they're still getting into custom through categories where product lines had already been established. Because ours is IP, we're getting a huge influx of interest from guys new to the custom space - from IT professionals looking to expand their businesses in whole-house control. The other side of it, though, is established custom installation outfits looking at the future of the business, who realize that in order to remain competitive, they need to be able to integrate new media and IT functionality with an existing A/V installation.