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CES: HP to sell Linux-based home media hub

Company works both with and against Microsoft

HP later this year plans to start selling a home media hub in the US, based on the open-source Linux operating system. The company hopes the product will replace consumer electronics devices such as VCRs and DVD players in living rooms.

The device will be the industry's first high-definition television (HDTV) media hub and combines the capabilities of HDTV, a digital cable set-top box and a dual-tuner digital video recorder (DVR), HP said in a statement. On the media hub, users will be able to store and manage digital photos, music, TV and video.

The product, which has yet to be named and priced, will be marketed as a consumer electronics device, not a PC, and will come with a music information service for song titles, CD artwork and other information, an update service and an HP-designed electronic programming guide for recording of video, the company said.

The media hub, announced yesterday at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, is part of HP's plans to gain a bigger share of the home entertainment market. In addition to the hub, HP's plans for 2005 include the introduction of 17 new HDTVs and home theatre projectors.

The new product also offers many of the features of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP Media Center Edition, which HP also sells, and the company is a key partner for Microsoft in its efforts to make the PC the media and entertainment hub for the home.

This is not the first time that HP has broken ranks with Microsoft. At last year's CES, HP announced it would sell its own iPod music player, under an agreement with Apple.

The HP media hub won't have the functionality of a traditional PC, which Media Center PCs do have. The hub also won't have a keyboard, but will be controlled via a remote control. It can, however, be networked to access media stored on home computers and offers features that let users create their own slide shows combining personal digital photos and videos with music, according to HP.

"The Media Center PC is designed for those people who are pretty comfortable with the PC environment and want that in their living room," said an HP spokesperson. "The media hub is designed for people who want more of a traditional living room experience and want to move into the digital world."

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