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Philips Tweaks Audio, Network Plans

In an update of its 2004 home and portable audio plans, Philips, here, expanded its selection of 802.11b-equipped microsystems to two, reversed its plans to ship a 30GB HDD music portable in 2004, and said new flash-memory and HDD music portables will support Microsoft’s DRM technology for compatibility with authorized Windows Media Audio (WMA) download sites.

New portables will ship with the DRM, either with the first shipments or as a running change. Consumers who buy early versions without the DRM will be able to download the DRM as an upgrade.

In updating its wireless-network plans, the company plans June shipments of two 802.11g-equipped Multimedia Links in June to stream audio and video content wirelessly from a PC’s HDD or from a broadband Internet connection to a home entertainment system. The $299-suggested SL300i and $449-suggested SL400i use wireless 802.11b and g and Microsoft’s Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) to connect to a PC equipped with Philip’s UPnP-based media-management software. The devices stream audio, video and still-image files from the PC or Internet in the following formats: JPEG, MP3, MP3PRO, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DiVX and XviD.

The SL400i displays menus on its front-panel display or on a connected TV. The 300i, which lacks a display, displays menus only on a connected TV. Consumers can also view menus and PC content on a new color touch-screen IR remote with 802.11b wireless card. The $499-suggested RC9800i remote uses UPnP to view and control content on networked PCs equipped with Philips’s software or on any UPnP-equipped device. Although the preprogrammed/learning remote has no built-in speakers, its recharging/docking station features a line-level output for connection to powered speakers.

The remote’s 802.11b capability also enables downloading of EPG menus through a broadband connection. The remote’s main selling point, however, is its setup wizard, which simplifies programming, said marketing manager Tracy LoPriore.

Wireless-network capability is also built into one new LCD TV and one new HTiB, both equipped with 802.11b/g, and in one new 802.11b-equipped microsystem. All three feature UPnP.

The microsystem, the MCW770, ships in June at a suggested $389. A current networked microsystem uses built-in 802.11b but lacks UPnP.

The HTiB, the 802.11b/g-equipped MX6000i, ships in July with some changes since it was announced at CES. The suggested retail jumps to $799 from $699, and its color will be silver instead of black. It was previously planned for March shipment. It features a five-disc progressive-scan DVD player.

In another product-lineup change, the company decided against shipping a 30GB HDD music portable in 2004 to focus on launching its new 2GB HDD model, 20GB HDD model, key ring-size flash-memory portables, and Nike/Philips-brand sports-style music portables, the company said.

In other changes made to previously announced HDD plans, Philips added the 2GB model, the hdd070. It ships in September at a suggested $199. The 20GB hdd20, already available, is priced at a suggested $349, compared to the originally announced $299.

One of the new Nike/Philips portables, the armband MP3RUN, is said to be the only flash-memory music portable with running-performance monitoring. The 256MB model used Bluetooth to communicate with an included speed sensor that clips onto a running shoe to monitor speed and distance. The information is relayed via voice to the MP3RUN’s headset for playback on demand.