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Wi-Fi will be the key enabler for delivering and redistributing content in the home, says ABI Research.

The research firm forecasts that the total number of Wi-Fi-enabled consumer electronics devices will grow from just 40 million shipped in 2006 to nearly 249 million in 2011.

“From the enormous interest in online gaming to the rapid emergence of new Internet distribution channels for top-tier movie and TV content, the need for connectivity in mainstream consumer electronics is growing rapidly,” said research director Michael Wolf. “While the consumer Wi-Fi market has previously consisted largely of routers, gateways and adapters, ABI Research believes that as the market evolves towards digital distribution, its growth will be fueled by the inclusion of embedded Wi-Fi in consumer electronics.”

ABI signals the dominance of portable gaming consoles in today’s market, particularly the Wi-Fi equipped Sony and Nintendo consoles and the new Zune as the beginning of “a large scale movement” towards embedded Wi-Fi in portable media players.

Additionally, camera vendors such as Nikon, Kodak and Canon have all embraced Wi-Fi in their products and ABI expects DVD players and audio receivers to see high attach rates for Wi-Fi during the forecast period.

“The development of a market for Wi-Fi-enabled consumer electronics has been hampered by technology limitations such as power consumption, but it has also been delayed by consumer electronics vendors’ hesitation as they waited to see what would happen with 802.11n. With the 802.11n standard set to be ratified in a little over a year, the Wi-Fi Alliance’s decision to certify solutions based on a draft 2.0 for 802.11n, and vendors’ intentions to release products based on the current Wi-Fi protocols, this market is set for growth,” added Senior analyst Philip Solis.

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