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Philips Home Focus: New Sources, Networking

Philips will add iPod docks to almost every one of its stereo music systems and home theater systems in 2008 while expanding its selection of stereo systems with connections to additional digital music sources, including SD memory cards, USB drives, and Bluetooth-equipped cellphones, the company said at International CES.

In 2007, Philips offered the largest selection [18 SKUs] of home audio music systems, HTiBs and other home electronics with iPod docks of any A-brand CE supplier, and the selection will only grow in 2008, said Cesar Martinez, home entertainment solutions marketing VP.

Here’s what Philips unveiled in its key home audio segments:

Compact Stereo: Philips expanded its selection of two-channel audio systems that connect with multiple digital audio sources, mostly with iPods, but a greater selection of models will also connect with music-laden USB drives, SD memory cards and Bluetooth-equipped MP3-cellphones.

“Our goal in 2007 and 2008 is to supply products that allow you to access content no matter if it’s on SD card, USB drive, cellphone, iPod or CD,” said Martinez. These sources “are already in customers’ hands.”

Almost every Philips music system will feature an embedded iPod dock, a tethered outboard dock or a wireless Bluetooth dock that can be placed away from the music system in a more convenient pace. iPod docking models in 2007 ranged in price from $99 to $200, and the 2008 selection will start at $79.

The company will also expand its iPod-docking boombox selection from one model to as many as three in 2008, Martinez said. The new model or models will expand the selection down from a current everyday $99.

The company’s first Bluetooth shelf system, the $199-everyday BTM-630 single-chassis microsystem, was also the company’s first shelf system to connect to four digital sources: iPods via embedded dock, SD card, USB drive and Bluetooth cellphone. The system, currently available, doubles as a speakerphone for Bluetooth cellphones and automatically mutes the music when a call comes in.

At least one more Bluetooth microsystem was displayed, possibly followed by additional models later in the year. The CES model was a vertically oriented model with separate speakers and packaged Bluetooth iPod dock.

HTiB: Philips is adding iPod-docking capability to almost every HTiB in calendar 2008, excluding an entry-level HTiB. That’s up from half of the company’s HTiBs SKUs in 2007. Models will ship with embedded, wired-outboard, or Bluetooth-equipped wireless docks.

HTiB models with iPod docks include five home theater systems with proprietary Ambisound virtual-surround technology, which delivers surround sound through only one or two speaker enclosures. Here at CES, the selection of Ambisound systems grew to five from two with the introduction of bar-type systems for use with flat-panel TVs and the introduction of system using separate left and right speaker. All Ambisound systems also come with a separate subwoofer.

The company’s selection of bar-type Ambisound systems will grow to three from one. The current $799 HTS8100 packs main speakers, DVD player, AM/FM tuner, amplifiers and proprietary surround processing in a wall-mountable bar accompanied by an outboard subwoofer and tethered iPod dock that displays an iPod menu on the TV screen. It features Faroudja DCDi 1080p up-scaling with one HDMI output.

The new bar-type systems will expand the line down with tentative $699 and $599 suggested retails. The step-down $699 HTS6100 bar, for example, will be smaller than the $799-suggested 8100 and will lack Faroudja video processing, but like its predecessor, it comes with tethered iPod dock, DVD player, 1080p up-scaling HDMI output and AM/FM tuner. It also features USB port and playback of USB-stored audio and video files and photos. The $599 bar lacks a DVD player and upscaling but features two HDMI ins and outs, AM/FM tuner and iPod dock.

The company is also expanding its selection of Ambisound-equipped home theater systems with separate flat left-right speakers. The Ambisound HTS6515D, due in May at a suggested $499, features embedded iPod dock in the system’s DVD-equipped control console, which lies low and flat on a shelf or can be wall-mounted. It will join the currently available $599-suggested HTS6600, also featuring wall-mountable center console.

Wireless Multiroom Audio: The company updated its current selection of wireless multizone hard-drive-equipped music systems, wireless hard-drive music server and wireless clients, which include a client with amplifier and speakers, a client with only amplifier and a client with neither amp nor speaker for connection to any existing sound system.

The updates include album-art display, color display on one model and other features with no price changes.

The company also reentered the wireless digital media adapter (DMA) market after an absence of two years with the Wi-Fi-equipped NP1100 network music player, due in the second quarter at a suggested $149. It connects to any home audio system to stream music from a PC and accesses free Internet radio stations and Real’s Rhapsody streaming-music subscription service directly through a Wi-Fi-equipped broadband modem. Additional subscription services might be added in the future. The company’s previous DMAs didn’t stream subscription-based music services.