Dell announces MSN plans, audio receiver

The PC will remain the predominant method for accessing the internet, says Stephan Godevais, vice president and general manager of home and small-business products at Dell. Down the road, he sees the home PC as the hub that connects a network of household appliances to a broadband pipe running out to the internet.

The key is to make it easier to use a Dell PC as this internet centerpiece, he says. Toward that end, the company will work with Microsoft to create a service called Dellnet by MSN, says Frank Horton, director of internet solutions at Dell. Dell launched its Dellnet Web service last July, and with this announcement it plans to expand the service and make it easier to use.

Because Dell deals directly with its customers, it already has a great deal of information about a person by the time they've bought a new Dell PC, Horton says. Working with MSN, Dell can use that existing information to make it more painless to connect to the internet for the first time.

So instead of having to dial in and complete a new account application, a Dell customer can simply plug in their new PC and in a few clicks arrive at a personalised Dellnet by MSN home page, he says.

The new service is expected to launch later this year; Dell did not disclose pricing details.

An increasing number of people are becoming interested in digital music, but not everybody wants to listen to it in front of their PC, so Dell joined with S3 to create the Dell Audio Receiver. The unit is based on software from MusicMatch and hardware by S3 (which will release its own Rio Digital Audio Receiver later this summer).

A user places the stand-alone Dell Audio Receiver in a room away from the PC, says David Bowers, from Dell's appliance marketing division. The receiver is connected to the PC where music files are stored using either an Ethernet or home phone-line network connection. A small display lets the user select what tunes they want to hear. They can connect the receiver to an existing stereo or they can plug speakers right into the unit (they're not included).

While S3 will offer its own receiver product, Dell offers greater plug-and-play ease of setup, says Bowers. When you buy the receiver with a Dell PC, all the music and networking software, as well as networking hardware, is set up and ready to go when it arrives at your home. All you do is plug it in and go, he says.

Dell plans to sell the receiver for $US199 with the purchase of a Dimension desktop PC, he says. The price for everybody else is $US249. The company expects to begin shipping the product beginning in August, he says.

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