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Dell silences Net-music appliance

Faced with a lousy PC market and little enthusiasm for home networks, the company switches off its Digital Audio Receiver, designed to play PC-stored MP3s over such networks.

For Dell Computer's Digital Audio Receiver, it's the day the music died.

The company has quietly dispatched the Internet music box, an audio receiver launched in June 2000 that played MP3 files stored on a PC via a home network.

Dell began shipping the device in August 2000 near the peak of the Internet music craze as part of an effort to expand beyond the PC. But lack of growth in the home networking arena and the sagging PC market conspired to restrict sales, a company representative said.

Dell killed the device, which sold for $199 when paired with a PC, during the summer. For a while, the company offered the receiver for free when consumers bought particular PCs.

The deceased device is not alone. The information superhighway is littered with computing-appliance roadkill.

Intel, for example, recently revealed that it will close its consumer electronics unit, which sells digital cameras, digital-audio players and toys, phasing out inventory over the first part of 2002. Gateway killed its Connected Touch Pad Web surfing appliance last month after cutting back its plans for computing appliances earlier this year.

Analysts have said that such devices as a whole have made little headway as the PC market has sunk deeper into its 2001 slump.

Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard and Apple Computer have moved ahead with their own plans.

HP recently began shipping its Digital Entertainment Center de100c, which allows consumers to play, store and burn CDs as well as download and store music from the Internet and play it on a home stereo. It costs $999 at retailers Best Buy and Circuit City.

Apple launched its iPod, a $399 music player with capacity to store up to 1,000 songs, in late October.