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Philips Prepares 2nd-Half Audio Lineup

Atlanta — Philips’s second-half audio lineup will include the company’s first DVD-equipped micro-systems, first 1GB flash-memory portable and the industry’s only circular-shaped HDD MP3 portable.

The company, however, won’t offer replacements for a home theater in a box system and a pair of micro-systems that used wireless 802.11g to stream music from a PC. In audio, the company’s wireless focus will be on its previously announced WACS700 do-it-yourself six-zone music-server solution and on previously announced devices that stream music, or music and video, from a PC to a home entertainment system.

In other developments, the company:

  • is not including SuperAudio CD playback in any U.S. product this year. Philips still offers the technology in other countries, however;
  • will announce more HDD headphone portables in July;
  • showed new sports-style MP3 portables;
  • shipped only one of eight shelf systems unveiled in 2004 with PC-USB connectivity, but the company promises multiple models in 2006;
  • said its first HTiB with DVD-recorder won’t appear until 2006, having been promised for 2005. Its first HTiB with DVD-recorder and A/V-storing HDD will also appear next year;
  • just began shipping its RC 9800i IR/RF remote at a suggested $599, having initially targeted 2004 delivery. It uses 802.11b to control and view PC content from other rooms and can be used in conjunction with the company’s music and AV streamers. It also downloads EPGs via a broadband connection.

Here are the details on select products:

DVD micro-systems: Compact home theater in a bedroom or other secondary listening room is the promise of two DVD-equipped two-chassis micro-component systems, available to consumers in September at an everyday $199 and $249, the latter with real rosewood cabinets and ribbon tweeters. One chassis holds the DVD player, and the other holds the AM/FM tuner and two-channel amplifier. A subwoofer output is included. Virtual surround technology isn’t included.

Headset MP3 players: Three new armband-style MP3 portables, all with circular shapes, are targeted to active users, as were the co-branded Nike-Philips models before them. The co-branding relationship was dropped, however, so that Philips could pursue broader distribution, which now includes Target and Wal-Mart, a spokesman said. The previous products were available in Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA and the Good Guys, among others. Not all of these retailers have taken on the new round models, however.

The three-SKU selection, available to consumers in September, includes Philip’s first 1GB flash-memory portable and the industry’s first round HDD model, which sports 4GB capacity and rechargeable battery at a suggested $199. The round shape is said to reduce the chances that the HDD will fail when dropped.

The 1GB model at a suggested $159 adds SD memory-card slot, which is also available in the 512MB model at a suggested $119.

They and almost all other new MP3 portables are the company’s first to support the WMA DRM out of the box, and all are compatible with new WMA subscription download services. Previous models were able to be upgraded to incorporate the WMA DRM.

The next-generation ShoqBox, the PSS-120, expands memory to 512MB and continues to offer a small boombox-style form factor and feature set, which includes FM tuner, travel clock and built-in stereo speakers. It can also be used as a laptop-PC speaker system. It doesn’t support the WMA DRM.

Another new MP3 portable, the $119-suggested GoGear SA-178, features 512MB memory, FM tuner, and ability to record FM programs. It will be available to consumers in August.

The company didn’t actively promote the GoGear name as announced last year, instead opting to focus on the Philips name and the Sense and Simplicity theme. The company, however, will continue to offer products with the GoGear name for the youth-oriented portable-A/V products.

Wireless streaming: The company’s latest music-only streamer, the wireless SLA-5520, retails for a suggested $99 and streams DRM-protected WMA files, MP3 files, and WMA and MP3 Internet radio stations to a home entertainment system.

WACS700 is Philips’s previously announced six-zone music-server solution, which consists of a six-zone pedestal-mounted tabletop stereo system with AM/FM tuner, CD player/ripper, and 40GB HDD. It streams compressed music simultaneously to up to five speaker-equipped tabletop clients, each equipped with AM/FM tuner. A bundle consisting of the main unit and a client is a suggested $999, with additional clients at $299 each.