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HP Shows CE-Focused Media Receiver

The impact of Hewlett-Packard’s integration of Compaq computers will be on display this week when HP introduces its Digital Media Receiver during International CES.

The Digital Media Receiver is the latest attempt by a PC vendor to bring to market a device that bridges the gap between a computer and a home’s A/V system. HP’s product is a direct relative to Compaq’s failed Music Center device, which was unveiled several years ago as a combination Internet radio/audio storage device that would play MP3s through a home stereo.

“With the Music Center we tried to go directly to the Web, but now say the PC is the best place to organize the data and the TV to show it,” said Rob Masterson, HP’s product marketing manager for consumer products.

The product’s software accesses the PCs My Music and My Photos folders and displays the content on the TV.

The Digital Media Receiver concept takes a much different approach, Masterson said. The standalone receiver allows audio and digital images stored on a PC’s hard drive to be played through a stereo or, in the case of the images, displayed on a television. The receiver’s industrial design matches HP’s Pavilion PC line, but it is intended to reside in a person’s stereo cabinet.

When the line starts shipping this month it will come in a wired and wireless configuration. The former will be networked with the PC through the Ethernet port and the latter is intended for use in an 802.11b wireless network, Masterson said. The wired version will carry a $199 suggested retail and the wireless is expected to cost $299.

Masterson said he sees the Digital Media Receiver being merchandised with the home networking products, but as more of these types of devices come into the market retailer’s might have to create a new section for them. HP has not made a final decision, but it is considering rolling out additional versions of the receiver. One possibility could be audio-only model or adding some type of storage. Several CE companies have approached HP about embedding the Digital Media Receiver technology in its stereo components so they could directly attach to a PC, he said.