By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
TWICE: Is the home audio industry doing enough to tap into the popularity of new sources of music such as iPods, the networked PC, Internet radio, satellite radio and HD Radio?
Dave Bales, Pioneer: Everybody has jumped on the iPod bandwagon to a level that makes it affordable to integrate, and we see this trend continuing as long as iPod is the de facto portable music player. Networking, Internet radio and satellite radio have only started to become compelling features but will continue to become extremely important. HD radio remains expensive for manufacturers to integrate into their core components at the key price points.
Paul Bente, Harman Consumer Group: We are finding our way to including features that access all of the latest signals from outer and inner space. More and more of our products allow for instant access to these new music sources and additions to the radio dial. However, we think it's important to differentiate between casual and serious listening. While some of the formats put the emphasis on quantity, we favor the ones that allow for higher quality.
Mike Klipsch, Klipsch Audio: Currently, I don't think the home audio industry is doing enough. The numerous formats are creating confusion for consumers. It is up to our industry to demonstrate the benefits of each format so that consumers can make informed buying decisions. It is not an easy task, but the manufacturers that deliver high performance easy-to-use products will win.
Cesar Martinez, Philips: The home audio industry is reacting now in late 2006 and into 2007 tapping into these sources of music. More avenues for playback of iPods, satellite radio and HD Radio will headline 2007 product introductions. These will be in the form factors of clock radio, micro/mini size shelf systems, table radio and even boomboxes.
Philips research into consumer trends in Western Europe and the United States found that nearly one third of all respondents (30 percent) agree that, in light of this wealth of audio entertainment, they are getting down to more music in the home than ever before. Twenty-nine percent agreed that, thanks to easy to use multiroom audio devices, they were no longer restricted to listening to music in only one room. A further 29 percent felt it enabled them to have a far more personalized musical experience at home.
Phil Cohn, Boston Acoustics: The consumer has a lot of choices in how they get, listen to and transport their music. Certainly when it comes to HD Radio, awareness among the listening audience has increased dramatically in 2006 due in great part to the push by the HD Alliance and focus by the broadcast community. New products, like the Boston Acoustics Recepter HD, helped to make the technology easily accessible and showcase the quality and content of the HD experience.
Paul Wasek, Onkyo: Streaming audio from the PC to the stereo is something to keep an eye on in 2007. Content management resides in the PC, so it seems to be the next logical step. Music servers (HDD) are another segment of the market to look at as well. While it's a niche market now, it has the potential to be significant in the future.
The ability to upgrade or expand your HTiB or stereo system was key in 2006; that is, the ability to add or delete additional source components, iPod compatibility, satellite radio and automatic acoustical set-up features. They will become even more significant in 2007.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.