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Coming soon: the iPod washing machine

LG patent for MP3 player in kitchen appliance

LG Electronics, developer of the internet fridge, has set its sights on another appliance in its attempts to install consumer electronics functionality in the kitchen.

LG Electronics has filed patent application US 2007/0118862 A1 for a "home appliance with an MP3 player comprising the MP3 player adapted for storing contents; and a washing device for washing or drying clothes, the washing device being connectable with the MP3 player and having a communication function with the MP3 player to play back the contents stored in the MP3 player."

That's right, a washing machine (or dryer - they're not picky) with a built-in MP3 player.

"In answer to your question, no, I don't think that there is any ongoing trend involving the addition of MP3 players to everything that doesn't move," said Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst at Parks Associates, a consumer technology and market research firm in Dallas. "On the other hand, it's not too far-fetched to think that someone might want to listen to their music while participating in a mundane chore, such as doing the laundry. But, honestly, I don't get it - why not just crank up the stereo or clip your iPod to your belt?"

"To me, it doesn't make a world of sense," agreed Tom Dair, president of Smart Design, an international design, product development and brand communications firm in San Francisco. "Whistling while you work is helpful, but having the complexity of an MP3 player in your washing machine seems like a mismatch. If you love music, you probably have a wireless system set up in your home, so why bring in this device, which is probably located in a small room?

"Another disconnect is that a washer/dryer is not a portable item," Dair added. "An MP3 player makes sense if you're walking down the street, but I'm not seeing many people on the street with a washer/dryer. You're adding a mobile feature to a product that is anchored to the ground in a specific place where you don't spend a lot of time relaxing, or even sitting. But if it makes your clothes come out cleaner, that would be great."

Predictably more upbeat about this development was John I. Taylor, spokesman for patent applicant LG Electronics USA. "It's an interesting concept, and it is common in the technology field to apply for patents for new and interesting concepts," he said. "It is way too soon to say whether a product will come from the patent, but in the US a washer/dryer with an MP3 player is not part of our product road map at this time," he added.

Scherf said the whole thing reminded him of announcements a few years ago of refrigerators with computer screens in the door. Taylor indicated that Scherf must be recalling the LG Internet Refrigerator, announced in 2001 with a list price of $9,999 (£5,000).

"It was launched in Korea and test-marketed in the US but did not catch on and was frankly overpriced," recalled Taylor. "But we kept the concept with our line of TV refrigerators, which do not have internet browsers. Our latest, launched in May, is the HDTV Refrigerator, which is the first in the world with a high-definition screen."


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