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RealTime IT News

CES Products Get Consumers Connected

The term "home entertainment system" is being redefined -- yet again. This year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicking off this weekend in Las Vegas is the launchpad for a new generation of products that can make anyone's living room a high-tech, networked showcase.

Compared with shows from previous years, this latest gathering will tie the consumer electronics and computer industries together moreso than ever before. And Craig Barrett, Intel's president and CEO who delivers Friday night's keynote speech, is expected to echo that sentiment through software developments like the company's AnyPoint Home Network.

"In the extended era, the home PC will be tasked to do even more and consumers will be at the center of their own Internet experience," Barrett said in his prepared remarks.

Despite Barrett's optimism, though, others would argue that, at the end of the day, the importance of any hardware is still resigned to what role it will play in the home.

"This year electronics driven by software is really starting to come into the home in a big way," Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, told The New York Times. "You see it with music, you see it with photos, you see it with TV, you see it with the ways people are using PC's as a creativity center."

For instance, The Media Terminal, unveiled by Nokia is described by the company as a "home infotainment center that seamlessly combines the Internet and digital television broadcast...allowing consumers to utilize one central device for organizing and storing today's technologies."

The product blends digital video broadcast satellite service with full Internet access and personal video recording -- all through a television set. Consumers are able to view TV/Internet split screen, digital television recording to a hard disc with pause-and-play and video-on-demand options. MP3, video and digital photo file storage, 3-D and interactive games and digital television/radio are also offered.

What would home entertainment be without music? Liquid Audio has released Liquid Player Plus, a SDMI-compliant digital music solution created specifically for hardware manufacturers to custom brand and bundle with secure digital audio devices.

The product enables streaming, downloading, purchasing, playback and exporting of digital music content on the Internet and transfers it from a PC onto audio CDs.

Partners in this venture include OEMs Aiwa, IOData, Sanyo, TDK and Toshiba -- all who have incorporated the product into their devices.

Panja, on the other hand, launched a subscription-based broadband music player. The BMP-100 allows subscribers to stream MP3 music content from the Internet without using a PC connection. With an IP address and an Ethernet connection, the product allows Audio Blast service subscribers to listen to streaming digital audio, access MP3.com's inventory, play music files stored on a PC, manager an entire music collection, control with remote and TV-based menus and upgrade features via the Web.

Meanwhile, 3Com debuted two products: the wireless gateway and the home Ethernet gateway. The products are part of a suite that caters to the "digital home experience," according to Julie Shiner, vice president and general manager for 3Com's residential connectivity group.

"Our vision of the digital home experience is one that connects family members and important information -- both within and outside the home," she said. "Home networking will dramatically improve with our new products. We deliver breakthrough customer experiences through radically simple home networking connectivity, Internet appliances and broadband access products."

Microsoft's Consumer Electronics Play

Microsoft was scheduled to introduce its X-Box video-game console. Expected to be released in this coming fall, the X-box aims to make an impact in the $20 billion game industry and unsea