But there's a catch: Electronics makers must make the next generation of home technologies far easier to use than VCRs and remote controls that have so flummoxed consumers. To do that, those same manufacturers "must reach an unprecedented level of co--operation" among themselves -- a failure that set back the adoption of digital TVs for years.
This was the message from Howard Stringer, CEO of Sony Corporation of America, in a keynote address that marked the beginning of the giant Consumer Electronics Show here. "Your digital television will become the centrepiece, at the nerve centre of the home of the future -- a home that will be as well connected as any office might be today," Stringer predicted before a gathering of the some of the 100,000 people expected to attend the trade show during the next four days.
"Whether wired or wireless, your home network will be the platform for dozens of consumer devices co-existing within the home -- set-top boxes, smart phones, a whole new class of devices designed for what Sony calls the coming era of intimate computing.
"The digital home network will perform the one magic trick that consumer want most of all: It will render technology invisible, allowing them to seamlessly access their PC and audio-video functions from a single control and simplify what is currently as dizzying and incompatible array of choices, operating procedures and protocols."
Stringer, the former head of CBS, noted that those who would create, manufacture and sell the enabling technologies behind the home network have an recent exemplar: The Internet.
"The Internet, with all its attendant benefits, real and potential, only became popular when companies like Netscape, AOL, Microsoft and others figured out how to make it easy to use." Stringer said making home devices easier to use requires far more than changing the instruction manuals. "We also have to change the way we do business." As an example, Stringer cited the co--operative underway among Sony and other consumer electronic powerhouses, such as Hitachi, Phillips, Toshiba and Matsushita. By spring, he said, the group should reach agreement on a open architecture to form the basis of the home network.
This "home audio-video interoperability" architecture -- known as HAVi -- will support a wide variety of chips, operating systems and software applications. HAVi will embrace a standard for high-speed digital networks. That standard, known variously as IEEE 1394 or iLink, allows a variety of consumer electronics, computers and content to communicate and work with each other.
"Please, let's not turn the fast track to digital networks into a slow-motion replay of indecision and competing agendas that have hampered and delayed DTV," Stringer said.