Digital Bridge Devices Flounder At Retail

By Doug Olenick On Feb 27 2006 - 8:00am

With almost 18 months of retail shelf time Media Center Extender (MCE) devices have registered minimal sales, as have their close cousin, the Digital Media Adapter (DMA).

For numerous reasons, not all apparent at their launch in October 2004, both product categories have failed to catch the consumer's imagination. Several companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Linksys and D-Link, introduced their own models, and Dell gave its wholehearted support to the concept. HP quickly dropped its product and, like Dell, now sells the Linksys machine on its Web site.

Steve Baker, NPD Techworld's research director, said MCE sales have been minimal, and the original reason for it being developed is being superseded.

“The reason for it to exist will go away when the technology is embedded,” Baker said.

Instead of dedicated devices to bridge the gap between the PC and a home's audio and video equipment, Baker sees the task being taken over by small, single function products like the Sling Box or the DMA technology being integrated into the A/V products. He pointed to HP's intention of adding Wi-Fi capability to its television line as a prime example. (See Philips story below.)

Kurt Scherf, VP Parks Associates, said the MCE and DMA dependence on home networking was and is the biggest hurdle the products face in gaining consumer acceptance.

“Home networking is still not that easy, so it is not easy to derive the full benefit from these devices. In addition, consumer awareness of the existence of these products is still really low and prices were initially high,” Schurf said, adding the fact that 25 percent of U.S. homes have a home network, which is a huge plus for this technology.

Despite its shortcomings, Parks Associates still sees some growth for the category in the coming years, but Scherf said acceptance of the technology in both stand-alone and embedded formats will depend upon the availability of content.

Michael Cai of Parks estimates sales for non-MCE DMA shipments could be in the millions by 2009. However, this is highly dependant upon how well companies do promoting their multimedia tools, like Intel's Viiv technology.

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