The wireless home has become a reality, with the Wi-Fi hardware market achieving staggering growth in 2003, according to In-Stat/MDR. The high-tech market research firm expects that 22.7 million NIC and AP units rolled out in 2003, a 214% increase from 2002's 7.2 million unit shipments. The primary market drivers for 2003 were the availability of 802.11g products, and consequently the very cheap prices for 802.11b equipment. Notebooks with embedded Wi-Fi were also a driver on the client side within the home, as Dell, HP, Toshiba, Fujitsu and Acer pushed out notebooks with embedded 802.11b and 802.11g at retail, through catalogs, and on-line. Most of these notebooks included embedded Wi-Fi for no extra cost.
However, according to Gemma Paulo, a Senior Analyst with In-Stat/MDR, "Rapid price erosion is still a critical factor in revenue growth within this market, but the high volumes are allowing for revenue growth, even as prices fall fast." Wi-Fi hardware revenues are expected to reach $1.7 billion for 2003, an increase of 140% from 2002 total revenues of $700 million.
The year 2003 was also the banner year for the first real introduction of Wireless Media Connections, i.e. Wi-Fi embedded into devices that bridge the gap between the PC cluster and the entertainment cluster, within the home. First generation 802.11b wireless media adapters rolled out from the likes of Linksys and HP, and PrismIQ rolled out support for higher speed 802.11g in its entertainment gateway. In-Stat/MDR expects that many low-cost home networking specialists will roll out 802.11g wireless media adapters with a focus on media streaming, in 2004.