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More PC, Web Companies Develop Audio Products

More suppliers in the computer and Internet industries are repositioning themselves to compete with traditional consumer electronics manufacturers.

Recently, a trio of computer-world companies-CMC Magnetics, DigMedia and Gateway-unveiled CE-like music-playback devices for the home. Except for Gateway’s product, the new products don’t require a PC connection to listen to compressed music.

San Diego-based DigMedia, a digital music distribution company, introduced the $499 MusicStore, a transportable device with built-in CD player, MP3 ripper, a 5.4GB hard drive for storing the ripped files, and a pullout MP3 headphone portable, which isn’t SDMI-compliant.

Files stored on the hard drive can be transferred directly to the headphone portable in less than a second each, compared with 40 seconds on the fastest PCs, said chief technology officer Pedro Vargas. The files can also be played back through a connected home audio system.

A USB port enables the device to access music stored on a connected PC.

The MusicStore is available online through, and Three New York retailers-Datavision, Harvey’s and The Wiz-also carry the device:

The MusicStore is the company’s first non-PC-based music device. Others will be shown at CES, including a non-PC-based device called SoundCast.

DigMedia also provides secure media streaming and hosting services to music labels and other music-content providers.

Separately, Taiwan-based CMC Magnetics went to Comdex to introduce its first CE products, which complement its data-storage media and hardware. One product is a home-component-style CD player/MP3 ripper with built-in hard-drive recorder; the other is a headphone MP3 portable that plays back 3-inch MP3-encoded data CD-R and 3-inch CD-ROM discs available from several blank-media companies, including CMC.

The home device, the $499-suggested CB-200, is slated to be available in May 2001 from CMC distributor Hotan of Dublin, Calif. It features a 20GB hard drive and CD player compatible with data and music CD-R/RW discs.

After ripping songs from a CD to the hard drive, consumers can transfer the songs to a MultiMedia Card (MMC) via an MMC slot.

The device also features left, right and stereo microphone inputs for live recording, and analog and digital connections. The device sorts songs by artist, style or any other criterion.

CMC’s other portable product, the $149-suggested CA-100, is due in February and plays 3-inch data CD-R discs encoded with Redbook CD audio or with MP3 files. The discs can store 21 minutes of Redbook audio and up to three hours in MP3 form, depending on the data rate. It features 40-second antishock memory for Redbook audio and 15 seconds for MP3, the company said. It will be available in gray or red.

Hotan has also developed a PDA/digital/camera/MP3 player.

For its part, Gateway turned to the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HPNA) 10-Mbps 2.0 network standard to build a home-component-style Internet music player similar in concept to Internet receivers developed by S3 and Compaq.

Gateway’s Music Player will connect to any HPNA-equipped PC to play back the PC’s music files from another room. The Music Player can be connected directly to powered speakers or to an A/V system. Up to 15 devices can be connected to a PC to simultaneously play back up to 15 different songs. The $299 suggested retail includes a remote control. It will be available around Dec. 15 through Gateway’s stores, website and 800 number.

The Music Player will be the first, but not last, CE device with HomePNA networking technology.

Gateway said it plans to offer in mid-2001 HPNA adapters that would connect traditional CE products to an HPNA network. One adapter would let users stream DVD-Video from their PC to multiple TVs or display Internet video content retrieved by a PC in another room. A wireless Web pad planned next year by Gateway would let users remotely control the PC.

Another planned adap-ter, when used with an HPNA-equipped broadband modem, would convert multiple home phones into voice-over-Internet phones, allowing a single phone line to a house to support up to four phones, each with separate phone numbers.

Similarly, Gateway will offer feature phones with built-in HPNA, LCD screen to display Web information, and CCD camera for videophone calls.

The devices are part of Gateway’s “connected Home” strategy, under which the company also launched November shipments of a $599 Linux-based Web-browsing touch-screen appliance with built-in dial-up modem to a new instant-on version of AOL.

The countertop and undercounter device, which comes with IR keyboard, also features HPNA technology to retrieve and play back music, video and data files from HPNA-equipped Gateway PCs or access the Gateway PC’s broadband modem. The appliance isn’t designed to access non-Gateway PCs.

Advertised Portable Internet Audio Prices October 1 – 15

Figures following model numbers denote memory in MB. The first figure represents embedded memory, and the second denotes memory of included plug-in memory card. A zero as a second figure indicates the device was packaged without a plug-in card.

Prices based on advertising appearing in more than 100 U.S. newspapers.

Models are listed in order of frequency of appearance.

Source: Beyen Corp., Niagara Falls, N.Y. (905) 374-4596

TWICE 2000