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Gracenote eyes gadgets for service

The online music service is taking its song-recognition technology to devices such as home stereos, car stereos and MP3 jukeboxes.

Online music service Gracenote said Tuesday that it will offer versions of its online song-recognition technology for a range of devices including MP3 players and home and car stereos.

The Berkeley, Calif.-based company has until now targeted PC users with its music database service, dubbed CDDB. The software recognizes songs and allows applications such as AOL Time Warner's Winamp to display song titles, album art, music news, artist biographies, album reviews and tour information.

The move comes as online music is increasingly finding its way off the PC and onto portable devices such as MP3 players and even home stereos.

Jarvis Mak, an analyst at measurement service Nielsen/NetRatings, said Gracenote has done well online, signing up some well-known partners such as MusicMatch and RealNetworks. However, the company could face an uphill climb off the Web.

"I don't know how much it lends to further someone's offline experience," he said. "I find its potential to be limiting."

Mak added that with consumer devices, people are listening rather than watching. For instance, people use their car stereos to listen to music and may not read a small screen with text about the artist's history.

Gracenote, however, is betting that its service will be in every home, MP3 device or CD player in the next five years and will help consumers manage their music. The company said its service has been available for the past couple of months through consumer products that include Pioneer's car stereo, Kenwood's MP3 jukebox player, Compaq Computer's iPaq and Hewlett-Packard's MP3 jukebox.

David Hyman, president of Gracenote, said the company decided to move its service offline because of demand by manufacturers and consumers. He said people have become accustomed to obtaining vast amounts of information on their PCs and want the same functionality in home and car players.

"Music recognition becomes the link to all related content," Hyman said. "If you want to enhance the music listening experience, you have to have Gracenote in your device. Album cover art, bios, tour information, ticket sales, CD purchasing--none of that can happen without recognition."

In May, Gracenote sued CD-burning company Roxio, alleging that Roxio illegally distributed its software and infringed on Gracenote's patents and copyrights. The following month, Roxio countersued, alleging Gracenote's patent and trademark claims were invalid and that the patent was granted only after Gracenote withheld information from federal regulators.