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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March, 2005, 08:25 GMT
Cebit show does more with media
Flags at Cebit trade fair, AP
Cebit is a flagship event for many hi-tech firms
Cebit is a showcase for all kinds of technologies but there's no doubt that the dominant theme this year is to do with making the media you own portable.

The Apple iPod took this trend of thinking in new ways about the media we own into the mainstream and it has been continued with the growing numbers of players that let you take your music, movies and pictures around with you.

But portability is not just about putting your collection in your pocket. It has more to do with realising the worth of that collection and trying to get more out of it.

"You only have to download 100 songs or so to have your music collection be more valuable than the hard drive its sitting on," said Drew Henry, general manager of Nvidia's desktop division.

Increasingly, said Mr Henry, consumers want to be able to enjoy their valuable collections where-ever they are in the home.

"It's quite clear that this digital distribution of music, video and images is going to be the way to that media gets distributed in the future," he said.

Sound story

Close-up of iPod earbuds, Apple
The iPod got people thinking about what to do with digital media
The preferred path for that distribution is wireless - which is becoming as popular in home networks as digital music players are on the streets.

Most of the devices that act as media servers being shown off at Cebit use wireless in one way or another to get those songs or films spread about your home.

At the moment the dominant theme is moving music around, not least because lower speed wi-fi networks could struggle to stream high-quality video. However, many of the music servers detailed below will handle video too.

At Cebit the 80GB MP3Beamer audio server got an airing and the standalone machine acts as a central repository of your music which you can then beam to different devices round the home.

Once you've got the MP3Beamer though you will need to buy other devices that connect to your stereo to decode the datastream and turn the bits back into sounds.

Plug in

The Netgear MP101 does a similar job to the MP3Beamer but usefully has a small four-line display on the front that lets you see which playlist or tracks are about to come up.

Other hard disk music players include the Slim Devices Squeezebox 2 - that plugs in to your stereo to route the music you have on your PC to other rooms - and the Montego MA-1120 wireless media adaptor.

Laptops on display at Cebit, AFP
Cebit is a hi-tech and hardware heaven
Linksys showed off its Wireless-G Media Link box that can store and stream video as well as music and is ready for the net-based entertainment services expected soon.

One thing to watch out for is the problems that digitally locked music from online sites such as Napster and iTunes presents.

The digital locks on downloaded tracks can stop them being streamed to other devices in your home. You can only be sure that tracks ripped from CDs will play anywhere.

Restrictions on what you can do with the music you own might also limit the number of rooms that you can play it in. The relatively low data rates of the more widely used wi-fi standards might make it a choppy experience too.

If you want a slightly different way to spread that sound around the home, you could look at the ST&T Powerline MP3 streamer that uses the electricity cables in your home as its distribution route.

A central box sends music out to receivers plugged in to the power sockets to spread the sounds around.

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