CES - HP tunes in with digital media receiver

Want to share multimedia on your PC with your stereo or TV? Hewlett-Packard Co. has the product for you: The Digital Media Receiver 5000.

Launched at the Consumer Electronic Show here this week, the unit ships at the beginning of February. The Digital Media Receiver 5000 is a remote-controlled box with hook-ups for your stereo and TV. It also offers a choice of wired (US$199) or wireless 802.11b (US$299) connections to your PC and home network.

Sharing Files The Media Receiver allows you to navigate files on your PC from the living room, using the remote control. This version of the device only allows the sharing of music and still images; future products will also include video streaming capability, according to Perry Ralph, HP's product manager for emerging technology.

A competing product, Sony Corp.'s RoomLink Network Media Receiver, also is a remote-controlled box that supports video streaming. However, Sony does not offer wireless capability in its media center's initial design, which is also being introduced at CES.

HP does not offer the video option because of bandwidth limitations, especially for wireless networks, and cost issues, according to HP spokespersons.

The Digital Media Receiver 5000 requires Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP, and comes bundled with interface and file-management software.

Versatile Selection However, you don't have to use a specific kind of jukebox software, Ralph says. The Media Receiver will recognize your music and your playlists whether you use WinAmp MusicMatch or another popular application. The device supports MP3, WMA, and M3U on the music side, and popular formats like JPEG, BMP, and GIF for still images.

The system also lets you associate music with your picture slide show, and you can print a selected photo at the touch of a button on the remote, Ralph said. For easier browsing, all the content is arranged in one central location by type. For example, if you have music and playlists stored on your home office PC, as well as your children's PCs, all of the music will appear when you browse your available music--you don't have to remember what was where.

HP is targeting the experienced PC user with its product, said David Albritton, an HP spokesperson.

"We won't sell this to the masses. The target user is somebody with a home network," he says.