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CES: Digital media to access all areas

Sony, HP and Rockford launches allow you to listen to digital audio via home network

The way we access digital music and image files in the home and car looks set to be revolutionised by a range on devices on show at CES in Las Vegas.

US company, Rockford has launched two media players that make it easy to transfer digital audio files to a car or home hi-fi. The systems, called Omnifi, work in two ways depending on whether files are being sent to a car or a home stereo.

The home receiver allows you to hook your stereo into a home network so you can play files stored on your PC on a hi-fi. It also allows you to listen to streamed audio direct from the internet. In a car, which is obviously not within range of a home network when it is on the road, the receiver includes a 20GB hard drive so you can store transferred files to listen to while you are driving. The receiver fits into a standard car hi-fi housing.

The systems go on sale in the US in April priced around $600 (£373) for the car unit and $400 (£249) for the home unit.

Sony and HP are also jumping on the home networking bandwagon with RoomLink and Digital Media Receiver 5000, respectively. Both devices turn your PC into a music and image server, allowing you to play music files from your computer on your stereo and view digital pictures stored on your hard drive on your TV screen.

The Sony RoomLink is designed to be used with its Vaio PCs, and even supports video via an onboard Mpeg-2 encoder, but only when used with a Vaio and its GigaPocket personal video recorder.

The basic units are $200 (£124) each, and these work with a fixed LAN connection. HP's wireless version which supports 802.11b costs $299 (£186), while Sony charges an extra $200 for the wireless RoomLink, but this does support 802.11a with a faster transfer rate of 54Mbps, as opposed to the 11Mbps offered by the older 802.11b standard.

The RoomLink goes on sale next month in the US, with the wireless version due to ship in March. HP's Digital Media Receiver is due out in America in the first or second quarter of this year. So far no plans have been made to launch in Europe, where the take up of home networking much lower than in the US.


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