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Universal To Simplify A/V Transfers To Multiple Portable Devices

8/11/2006 11:17:00 AM Eastern

Cypress, Calif. – Universal Electronics is upgrading its SimpleCenter media-management software to simplify the transfer of multimedia content from PCs to more types of handheld devices.

SimpleCenter currently transfers multimedia content between PCs and two Wi-Fi-enabled Nokia cellphones, the N80 and N93, and it enables content to be streamed from a PC to Philips’s Wi-Fi-equipped Streamium home-A/V products and to other Wi-Fi devices incorporating Microsoft’s universal plug and play (UPnP) technology, which automatically locates and identifies devices on a network without forcing consumers to configure the devices.

The Nokia phones and Streamium devices are sold with an OEM version of SimpleCenter.

Version 4.1 of Universal’s software, which will be available at the end of September at $29.99 at simplecenter.com, will synchronize PC content with a wider range of handheld devices, including PlayStation Portables, iPods, USB mass-storage devices (including many USB-equipped cellphones), and most Microsoft PlaysForSure-compatible MP3 players and portable media players (PMPs). It also supports streaming from a PC to a networked Xbox 360.

The software, billed as “one interface for all media,” can be upgraded to support transfers to other brands and types of handheld devices as they become available.

The new version will enable consumers to replace separate media-management programs needed for each of their handheld devices, including iPods, PSPs and select cellphones, said product management director Michael Hirsch. The software “tightly integrates the devices with a PC’s media library” to simplify transfers and expand the customer base for viewing PC content on a handheld device, he said.

For $29.99, SimpleCenter eliminates multiple purchases, he continued. One purchase, for example, might be a $20 Sony application needed to transfer music and video to a PSP. Others would be different transcoder applications needed to transcode video to formats that can be played by different brands and types of portable devices. SimpleCenter also improves on iTunes software by improving the way non-Apple-provided video is transferred to portable devices, he claimed. “It’s unintuitive,” he said of iTunes, which requires users to manually add the video to their iTunes library and doesn’t support Windows Media Video (WMV). “SimpleCenter improves on this by automatically including all your video in the SimpleCenter view of media, and it supports a wider set of video formats than iTunes does.”

Universal also expects other cellphone makers to adopt UPnP technology for use in Wi-Fi phones, expanding the potential number of SimpleCenter-supported Wi-Fi phones.

The old and new versions also let users access their PC’s content from any browser-based device as long as the home PC is on and connected to a broadband modem. The browser-based devices include desktop PCs, the Wi-Fi/browser-equipped PSP, and even cellphones, which could stream via Wi-Fi or via the cellular network.

Both versions also let users turn their home PC into a photo-sharing service, making it unnecessary to upload photos to an online service. The software sends a password-protected URL link to a user’s PC to the user’s friends and family, who click on the link to view and download photos.

For now, the company is offering its software on its own Web site and to CE suppliers on an OEM basis for bundling with their products. Universal has no plans yet to expand sales to other online sites or to brick-and-mortar retailers.