Sony expands LocationFree lineup

"Base stations" bring traditionally business-oriented remote-access functions to the consumer media world.

On Tuesday, Sony announced new additions to its "LocationFree" family, a selection of remote-access devices geared toward media and entertainment fans.

The term "remote access" has long been associated with business travelers, but Sony is marketing to a different audience with its LocationFree line of broadband-powered devices.

Available in October, the LF-B10 and LF-B20 "base stations" are slim black boxes that hook up to devices like televisions, digital video recorders and video cameras. Content from the devices can then be streamed live via broadband to Macintosh and Windows computers, as well as Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) handheld devices, wherever a wired or wireless connection is available.

This fall, Sony also aims to add mobile phones--no word yet on which models--to the list of LocationFree-compatible devices.

The two "base stations" are essentially the same, but the pricier of the two--the LF-B20, set to retail for $249.99--has additional wireless LAN features so it can connect directly to a home wireless network; the $199.99 LF-B10 needs to be manually plugged into whatever device from which it's streaming content.

Additionally, Sony has also introduced the LocationFree TV Box, which enables content to be streamed from television to television. A "base station" is also necessary for use of the TV Box, which has a price tag of $229.99.

These new devices expand a set of Sony products in the works for the past few years. In 2004, the company introduced its first LocationFree TV, a portable liquid crystal display (LCD) monitor that could access home television or video content from any location with a broadband connection, thanks to the accompanying "base station." Several months later, Sony rolled out software that facilitated LocationFree streaming on notebook computers.

With the addition of the "base stations" and the TV Box, Sony is hoping to widen the LocationFree target audience beyond tech-savvy travelers and into the growing market of multimedia enthusiasts--the same crowd it had in mind when it announced the release of the Vaio LS1 desktop computer, which doubles as a flat-screen TV, last month.

Consequently, the new additions to the LocationFree lineup are touted not only as travel accessories but also as add-ons to home entertainment systems. Sony markets the TV Box, for example, as a potential way to distribute television and video content to multiple devices around the home without the need for extra cables and wires.

The new LocationFree devices go on sale in October but can be preordered on the SonyStyle Web site.

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