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EDITIONS
Sunday, 2 February, 2003, 08:49 GMT
Net radio targets broadband homes
Philips Streamium internet radio
Living room friendly: The Philips internet radio

Electronics firm Philips hopes its new hi-tech home stereo will free internet audio fans from their PCs.

Streamium MC-i200 boxes went on sale in the UK in January and they are designed for home users with fast broadband internet connections.

The internet radio sounds good and provides a living room friendly front end to the kind of playlist personalisation already offered to people who listen to music stations on their desktop computers.

But there are a number of limitations which give the box the feel of a technology demonstration rather than a mature product.

Routers, wires and choice

It requires users to have a router installed on their broadband connection, something which will add another 100 or so to the unit's 400 cost.

A new version supporting wireless networking is due out later in the year. The current version runs on a standard wired network, so it needs a network cable between it and the router.

Rather than give access to all the thousands of audio streams on the internet, the radio currently works only with a small range of stations who have done a deal with Philips.

They are prominent and experienced players in the world of internet audio, but full freedom of choice is out of the question right now.

Personalisation charge

The radio really comes into its own when used with a streaming service like Musicmatch, which offers users the chance to select the performers they like and have similar music suggested to them.

A random selection of tracks from these artists then form a personalised radio station.

Web interface to internet radio
Listeners create their own stations via the web
The service requires a modest subscription - the rest of the audio provided by the Streamium costs nothing once the unit is paid for - and it is the same as the service provided by Musicmatch to computer users.

Philips clearly hopes that the attraction of having good quality sound from a unit that looks like a piece of audio kit rather than a computer add-on will be enough to sell the Streamium to early adopters.

The set up procedure appears well thought out. Once the box is plugged in, there is very little data entry to be done via the box itself.

Once the user has logged on, the selection and customisation of playlists is done via a personal page on the Philips website.

The box also plays MP3s from CD-R and CD-RW.

Other electronics manufacturers including at least two small UK firms have similar products in the pipeline.

See also:

15 Jan 03 | Technology
12 Jan 03 | Technology
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