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Intel, Linksys hooked on networking

The chipmaker and the networking company are touting a new device that aims to bridge the gap between PCs and consumer electronics.

Intel and Linksys are aiming to bridge the gap between PCs and consumer electronics.

The chipmaker and the networking company have been demonstrating a media adapter device this week at Intel's Developer Forum in San Jose, Calif. The device, Linksys' Media Navigator, is based on a reference design from Intel and allows consumer-electronics gadgets to connect to a network and access files on a PC. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel has been showing prototypes of the design since the beginning of 2002.

With the growing popularity of digital content such as music files and photos, PC and consumer-electronics companies have been trying make it easier for consumers to use content on multiple devices.

Companies such as TiVo and Sony have been working to allow their products to connect to networks and access files stored on devices on a network.

During last year's Developer Forum, PC makers Dell Computer, Gateway and China's Legend were demonstrating branded versions of the Intel media adapter, but Linksys has been the first to announce that it will have a product available. Intel representatives say the PC companies are still interested in the device, and something may be available by the end of the year.

Linksys is aiming to sell the device in early to mid-May for under $200. The Media Navigator is essentially an access point with a digital to analog converter and allows consumers to browse a network for PCs and access audio files and images stored on a PC. The device will be able to connect to a network wirelessly, using the 802.11b standard or over an Ethernet connection. The Media Navigator also will come with a remote control to make it easy for the consumer to navigate the network and choose which files on the PC to access.

"For the first time, consumer-electronics devices have become part of the home network," said Mike Wagner, director of marketing for Linksys.

Wagner added that while the device will start out using the 802.11b standard it will move to the 802.11g specification this year so consumers will have the additional bandwidth to download and play video files. The 802.11b standard can ideally support up to 11mbps, while the 802.11g specification tops out at 54mbps.

The 802.11g specification has not been finalized, but it is expected to be finished by the middle of the year.

Devices based on Intel's design were originally not expected until the end of the year, but Linksys wanted to be able to hit the back-to-school season, according to Intel spokesman David Vogel.

Vogel said that Intel would try to sign up another partner by the end of the second quarter and two or three more by the end of the year. The chipmaker is working to add software to the design to improve video playback.