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CE Giants Huddle For Wireless File Swapping

Consumer electronics giants Philips and Sony have linked up with cellphone powerhouse Nokia in a bid to forge a standard for swapping multimedia content between mobile phones and home-entertainment systems.

The standard will be developed by the NFC Forum, the brainchild of the three companies. NFC, which stands for Near Field Communication, refers to the technology that will enable multimedia files to be transferred wirelessly over short distances. For example, MP3 audio files pulled down off of a set-top box could be transmitted to a cell phone.

Essentially NFC can be thought of as a kind of Wi-Fi for consumer electronics.

Sony, Philips, and Nokia announced their three-way effort at the CeBit 2004, the major European technology trade show held annually in Hanover, Germany. Basic work on NFC itself begantwo years ago by Philips and Sony.

On the marketing front, NFC is positioning itself as an empowering technology for consumers.

"Enabling easy transfer of information between consumer devices from phone numbers to electronic transactions, NFC bridges today's connectivity gap and allows connected consumers to interact with their environment," Scott McGregor, president and CEO of Philips Semiconductors said in a statement.

"Sony positions NFC as a new form of user-interface technology for consumer electronics products," said Teruaki Aoki, senior executive vice president at Sony. "The use of NFC technology in consumer electronics devices will increase opportunities for users to transfer data, implement secure transactions, and download rich content."

In practice, NFC is expected to work via touch-screen controls added to set-top boxes and mobile phones. Nokia, Philips and Sony are hoping to line up support from other consumer electronics vendors, along with enabling semiconductors from major chip vendors. However, no other companies have as yet signed on.

NFC itself is kind of spin-off from RFID . NFC operates in the 13.56 MHz frequency range, typically over a distance of a few centimeters.