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Startup Examines Music Downloads Without PCs

A start-up company believes it can broaden the customer base for authorized music downloading if it eliminates PCs from the process.

The venture-capital-funded company, New York-based Music Gremlin, has developed a reference platform that lets consumers download music directly to handheld music portables via home or office Wi-Fi network or via public Wi-Fi hot spots. The music would be downloaded from a Gremlin-operated site.

Eventually, music portables could be equipped with third-generation cellular technology or with IEEE 802.20 wireless technology, which is under development to deliver wide-area high-speed data to portable and handheld devices.

Music Gremlin is testing its product design and download service with consumer electronics companies and believes the first product could be available in the fourth quarter, said Robert Khedouri, one of the company’s principals.

“Cellular carriers are interested in this type of service in the ’05 timeline,” Khedouri added. “We’ve been approached by music stores” that would offer in-store download services, he added. Retailers are interested in private-labeling the portables and the service, he noted.

The platform accommodates either flash memory or hard disk drives as the storage medium in music portables, and it can be incorporated in PDAs based on Microsoft and Linux operating systems. It also accommodates a variety of codecs and digital rights management (DRM) technologies. The first devices, however, will use the Windows Media Audio (WMA) codec and DRM, the company said.