Linksys Ties TV, Stereo Into Home Network

Linksys this week unveiled a product to transport pictures and music stored on PCs to TVs and stereos, the first in a new line aimed at filling missing links in wireless home networking chain.

“Now that many people have a home network and broadband service we want to provide them with a little more value,” Karen Sohl, a spokeswoman with the Irvine, Calif., company told

The Wireless-B Media Adapter connects to TVs and stereos with standards cables and to the home network via 802.11b , allowing analog home entertainment equipment to accept digital content. It uses Intel processors to decode music (in MP3 and WMA formats) and pictures (in JPG, GIF, TIF and BMP formats). The images are viewed in a slide show format.

Selling for $200, the adapter lets users play song individually, by album or genre. Linksys, a unit of Cisco, is also working with online music services such as Rhapsody, and MusicMatch to support their playlists.

The company is readying other wireless products for late summer, Sohl said, including: a game adapter; Internet video camera; and an car MP3 player that can be loaded with songs via the home network in the garage or driveway.

Linksys’ offering comes less than a month after SMC Networks announced a similar product. Its EZ-Stream Universal Wireless Multimedia Receiver, available later this month, uses either 802.11a or 802.11b also plugs into home entertainment components.

Also, SMC will offer other dual-band EZ-Stream products, including a cable/DSL router, a CardBus adapter, and a USB adapter for desktop computers. No pricing is available for any of the EZ-Stream line.

While these companies are rolling new products, Prismiq has been selling a set-top video box with the same functions called MediaPlayer for some time. It is priced at about $250.

Larger IT and electronics firms, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Sony also have media adapter offerings. And others are positioning themselves in the home digital video market, which is expected to grow with the arrival of faster and more reliable wireless technologies such as 802.11g.

For example Pinnacle Systems recently spent $21.5 million for the Dazzle home video editing products from SCM Microsystems. That line captures, edits and shares digital video with both analog and digital camcorders.

J. Kim Fennell, Pinnacle’s president and CEO, said, combining Pinnacle’s studio video editing products with Dazzle’s brand “gives us a strong position that lets us bring a wider variety of products to our customers and be the obvious choice for home video editing.”

Sunny predictions for the home networking market notwithstanding, devices such as Linksys’ are still early products and have limitations, said Lee Black, a digital content analyst with Jupiter Research.

Customers just beginning to install home networks may not relish the thought of additional equipment complicating the job.

“It’s an interesting use of a home network to connect the TV and PC,” said Black, who expects all vendors’ products to improve quickly as new versions are released.

Black said the key to successful home networking products is the content. In that respect, Linksys is smart to pursue ties with online music services, a move that will encourage consumers to download additional music files. The pricing is also attractive, as is Linksys’ name recognition, Black said.

But as PC and laptops, which already have built-in CD and DVD players, become available with improved screen sizes and resolutions, home entertainment systems (digital or analog) will be squeezed, Black said.

Editor’s note: Jupiter Research is owned by the same parent copmany as this Web site.

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