An eclectic mix of PC, audio specialty, and full-line CE suppliers has come together to adopt wireless 802.11b and 802.11g as the do-it-yourself solution to networking music and video throughout the house.
Powerline-based networking technology, however, is still a contender.
Here at CES, dealers will find solutions that use the PC as a content server and at least one solution that uses a minisystem-style server to stream music to other networked minisystems (see p.18). It's from Philips.
Here are some of the companies unveiling new networked-content products:
Auvi: The WA1000, an 802.11b client with amplifiers and speakers, streams music from an 802.11b-networked PC and Internet radio through the PC or directly through a wireless-connected broadband modem. To eliminate visible wires when hung on a wall, it features built-in rechargeable battery and a detachable wireless-connected subwoofer. It will be available in late April at a suggested $199.
St. Charles, Mo.-based Auvi is an ODM that markets MP3 portables to suppliers such as Emerson and sells direct to consumers on its Web site. It is considering sales of select Auvi-brand products to retailers.
Bridgeco: Technology developer BridgeCo of Zurich, Switzerland, plans to team up with chipmaker Intellon to demonstrate a reference design for the industry's first HomePlug-compliant digital media player (digital "receiver"). It streams audio from a HomePlug-networked PC through a home's powerlines to a connected stereo system. It also streams Internet radio stations directly from the Internet. The companies expect retail prices of products built from their design to range from $100 to $150, including remote and front-panel LCD display.
NAD: The NetCap Network Player streams audio and video content from a networked PC via Ethernet or wireless 802.11b/g through any home audio system. It accesses MP3 and WMA music, JPEG and Kodak Picture CD, MPEG-4 and DivX video, and Internet radio stations.
It ships in the first quarter at a suggested $499.
Thomson: The company's Acoustic Research accessories group plans April shipments of the Digital MediaBridge, which uses built-in 802.11g to stream audio and video content from up to three PCs to a home entertainment system.
The $299-suggested MediaBridge is designed like an audio component and streams high-definition digital photos, music, and video from PCs. A supplied remote control manipulates an on-screen menu that appears on a connected TV. The device features Ethernet and USB ports as well as an integrated 802.11g wireless transceiver. Other connections include DVI, component video, digital audio, and analog audio. It supports the following audio formats: MP3, WAV, WMA, and AAC. In video, it supports
MPEG 2, MPEG 4, XviD, and WM9 video formats. It is compatible with existing music playlists.
Other products that connect PCs to A/V systems are available from ActionTec, OmniFi, Creative Labs, Hauppauge, Hewlett Packard, NetGear, D-Link, and Linksys.
Consumer electronics products with built-in PC-network connectability include DVD players from GoVideo, Gateway, and Apex. Tivo's Series 2 PVR with Home Media Option also makes the PC connection.