A study by Parks Associates predicts that annual U.S. sales of home media servers will reach 50 million units by the end of 2010. What is a media server? Essentially, it’s a device with storage that lets you access media content — audio and video — on displays such as televisions, often using a local network. As hard drive storage prices continue to plummet, it makes more and more sense to store entertainment content locally.
In fact, a TiVo is really a primitive media server, as is a Windows Media Center PC. You can already buy some HDTVs with these sorts of features built-in. And the success of SlingBox for accessing media files across a home network or even the Internet shows that there is growing demand for these features.
My guess is that the Parks Associates estimates will prove to be conservative, though we may see the growth in “personal servers” much like today’s iPods and MP3 players. We will likely have personal repositories of the music and video content that we want to hear or view, and we’ll be able to access them from a variety of devices in a variety of locations: not just the home. They may be portable, or they may be a device at home, or they could be storage provided by a service on the Internet. But whatever form it takes, we’ll be storing a lot more entertainment content by 2010.