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Philips hears sweet music for PCs

The consumer-electronics company launches software designed to analyze to play music files on PCs at the best sound quality possible by analyzing the file type and hardware involved.

Philips Electronics is fine-tuning audio playback for PCs.

The consumer-electronics giant announced Monday its Sound Agent 2 software, designed to play music files on computers at the best audio quality possible by analyzing the file type and hardware involved. The software is particularly effective in restoring sound quality to compressed audio files, such as MP3 files, according to Philips.

Sound Agent 2 is available bundled with Philips' Dynamic Edge 4.1 and Sonic Edge 5.1 sound cards. The Dutch company is considering bundling the software with consumer-electronics devices as well as with PC hardware, said Dennis Johnson, a product marketing manager at Philips.

"This software works in harmony with device drivers and the (operating system) to create optimal sound," said Johnson. "It's also very portable, so it can be bundled with other platforms?(consumer electronics) is where we are headed."

The software is part of a trend, with the growing popularity of digital media, to cross-pollinate PC and consumer-electronics technologies.

"Developers are selling and creating their products on the promise of digital media," said Susan Kevorkian, an analyst with research firm IDC.

Kevorkian added that projects combining PC and consumer-electronics technologies are already happening and further integration is where the industries are headed. Kevorkian noted, for example, that flash memory and hard drives are being added to digital audio players. In addition, Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition OS and hardware from companies such as Hewlett-Packard are improving the playback of music and other media, something that has largely been done only by consumer-electronics devices.

"With increasing storage capacities and improving network capabilities, as well as the merging of PC and CE worlds, we expect audio to play a major role in the connected home of the future," said Johnson.