Siemens to launch networked digital music player

Siemens Schweiz, the Swiss unit of Germany's Siemens, has developed a pocket-size digital music player that can download songs from online music services when hooked up to a cellular telephone.

The player will be launched by British cellular operator O2 (UK) before the end of the year and O2 will offer a companion download service that will make songs available up to two weeks before their official release date, Siemens said in a statement. The manufacturer said trials are ongoing in Europe with several operators and talks are also taking place with carriers in the U.S., South America and Europe on supplying the device.

O2 confirmed its launch schedule. "We aim to have a commercial product on the market before Christmas," said Kate Mant, a spokeswoman for the carrier.

The player is roughly the same size and weight as a current candybar-type cellular telephone handset, measuring 52 millimeters (mm) by 98 mm by 21 mm and weighing 80 grams. A small monochrome liquid crystal display (LCD) takes up part of the front panel and a navigation button and two additional smaller buttons complete the features on the front of the player.

Users can connect the player to a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) compatible cellular telephone that supports either a cable or infrared link. Once on the network, the player connects to a music server and displays details of the songs available and gives the choice of either listening to a sample of the song or downloading it into the player, said Siemens.

Music is encoded in the MPEG4 aacPlus format and an average song on the system will have a file size of around 1M byte. That works out to a download time of approximately between three minutes and nine minutes depending on the connection speed.

Audio is also protected with a digital rights management system developed by SDC AG in Basel, Switzerland.

Songs are stored on an SD (Secure Digital) memory card that can be removed from the player and inserted into a personal computer to allow users to listen to songs on their PC. The digital rights management software prevents songs being copied from to additional computers or shared online, according to the statement.

In addition the player also supports the popular MP3 file format and songs can be quickly transferred to the device by using a PC's USB (Universal Serial Bus) interface.

Siemens Schweiz has formed a consortium with digital rights management software developer SDC and media company Yodoba/234 AG to offer an end-to-end solution for carriers that wish to deploy such services. The "Music Over The Air Consortium" will select music, compress audio, host files and handle the rights management aspects of the service for carriers, said the statement. The consortium has also prenegotiated agreements with music companies that carriers can tailor to their needs.

(Gillian Law in London contributed to this report.)

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