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"Internet Radios"

With the impending release of Internet radio devices, people looking to
listen to their favorite Internet radio station or MP3 songs will no longer have to be sitting at their PC. There are several new competitors in the new marketplace, and each of them have some interesting ideas on how this technology can be used.

The iRhythm Remote Tuner, which wirelessly transmits music to home entertainment devices, is the first of the new devices scheduled for release. Developed by Acer NeWeb Corporation (a division of PC manufacturer Acer), the $99.95 portable device, which looks similar to a very small portable boom box, includes a dial with links to approximately 800 Internet radio stations. The iRhythm includes software that connects it to the Sonicbox website, which is a directory of Internet radio stations.

With 800 radio stations to navigate, the iRhythm uses a unique approach to tracking the stations -- a grid of letter and number combinations. There is one problem with the approach. Although the remote, which is supplied as a standard item, can be used anywhere in the house, the user needs to remember the dial combination that locates their favorite radio station. Outside of having to remember the locations, the approach should work well.

Another potential problem revolves around the connection to the Internet. The use of a high-speed connection is recommended, but the device does work with a standard dial-up account. It has been optimized for connections such as a cable modem or DSL, and you may experience some troubles if you are using a standard modem.

Acer isn't the only company with a new hardware release. In fact, a device called the Kima has been developed and is now available from Akoo.com. It is a wireless transmitter and receiver for sharing music with home entertainment equipment and is available from the Internet portal. According to company specifications, the device will transmit at a distance of about 1,000 feet while retaining the quality of the original song.

At this time, Kima users can choose between 4,500 radio stations listed on the Akoo.com site, but the device has some interesting advantages as well. For instance, the device can play a created list of MP3, RealAudio or Windows Media files instead of being required to download "live" music or having an open Internet connection.

There are several additional upcoming products that offer an assortment of features. Kerbango has demonstrated a prototype of a radio that will offer Internet and FM stations and may include an AM radio as well. The device will require a cable modem or some type of a compatible high-speed connection. Interestingly, the device will also have alarm clock features that can be set to switch to certain radio stations at specified times. For example, an FM station could be programmed to wake you up at 7AM, and would automatically change to a pre-determined station at 8AM for your morning news. The first release of the product is scheduled to offer only support for RealAudio streams, but the company may add MP3 or Windows Media support in the future.

Internet radios are just beginning to surface, and the current feature sets are just the beginning. It will be interesting to see what type of device ultimately takes control in the marketplace.

  - by Clayton Crooks

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