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NetGear plugs Wi-Fi into hi-fis

The Wi-fi equipment maker debuts a device that retrofits music stereos so they can connect to wireless networks and play songs from a PC.

NetGear unveiled a Wi-Fi device on Tuesday that is designed to retrofit stereos so they can connect to wireless networks.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company plans to demonstrate its NetGear MP101 Wireless Digital Music Player at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas later this week. It will also show off a wireless router with storage-sharing features.

NetGear CEO Patrick Lo has said in past interviews with CNET that he sees a significant opportunity for manufacturers in adapting older devices--such as televisions, music stereos and handheld devices--so they can work with wireless networks. The digital music player is the first product to result from this push.

The MP101 network adapter allows a stereo to play music stored on PC or other device connected to the wireless network. It will be available in stores in February at a price of around $200, according to NetGear. It comes with a remote control and connects to 802.11b and 802.11g wireless networks. It plugs into a stereo through audio inputs and plays MP3 and Windows Media files.

Using the device, people will be able to navigate music libraries and view song, artist and album information using a remote control that communicates with the box, which features a liquid crystal display. The device plays Internet radio streams and comes with a 30-day trial of RealNetworks' Rhapsody music service.

NetGear worked with Digital 5 on the software in the MP101 that allows stereos to access files stored on a PC.

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On Tuesday, NetGear also announced the WGT634U Super Wireless Media Router. The router connects to an external hard drive over a USB 2.0 connection and allows client devices on the router's Wi-Fi network to access the data on that hard drive.

The router uses Atheros' 108 megabit per second Super G technology, which promises fast transfer speeds as well as a network range that exceeds 200 feet, according to a NetGear representative. The router will be available in the first quarter of 2004 and will cost around $200, the company said.