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Linux-based Internet radio firm gets backing

Penguin Radio's chief executive says the company is receiving an investment that will build its staff and further its Linux-based Internet radio development.

The interest in Linux-based Internet radios is picking up.

At the same time 3Com acquired Kerbango for $81 million, another company, Penguin Radio, received an equity investment from Internet Partnership Group, said Penguin Radio chief executive Andrew Leyden.

Penguin Radio is building a device that will receive digital radio broadcasts over the Internet, then pipe the signal to a home stereo system. The company also is working on a portal site called PhoneRadio.com to provide links to Internet radio for people with cell phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and other portable gadgets.

In addition, the company is working on an Internet car radio that will receive signals from the Ellipso satellite Internet service.

Leyden declined to say how much Internet Partnership Group invested. "It is enough to get us through the year and then some and allow us a massive buildout of staff, development of the Web portal, and further research and development on the device," Leyden said in an interview.

The funding also will help the company expand into Europe and Latin America. Through the deal, Penguin Radio gets access to Internet Partnership Group's proprietary sports content.

Penguin Radio hopes to have its radio design finished by late summer or early fall, Leyden said. "The easier we try to make it, the more time it takes," he said.

The price of the radio should be between $200 and $250, Leyden said.

It will play MP3 and Real Audio files, he said. Although Linux machines can't yet play Windows Media files, it's possible that Penguin Radio will use an additional chip that will give the device a way to play the Microsoft format, Leyden said.

The device will come with a modem or Ethernet port to tap into the Internet, he added.

Linux, a clone of Unix that's being developed by an army of programmers and enjoys a stronghold in servers, is moving after "embedded" devices that typically have specialized abilities and user interfaces.

Kerbango's radio uses MontaVista Software's version of embedded Linux. Kerbango, like Penguin Radio, also devotes time to cataloguing Internet radio sites.

Penguin Radio has some prototypes using Red Hat's version of Linux and others with its own. For the production model, Penguin Radio is "looking at approaching all the big Linux providers" or sticking with its own version, Leyden said.

Kerbango is based in Cupertino, Calif. Penguin Radio is based in Washington, D.C.