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Philips fills airtime on Net radio device

Deals to carry online radio programming from MusicMatch, Radio Free Virgin and iM Networks signal a digital shift from the PC to the living room.

Philips Electronics said Tuesday that three online music services have agreed to provide programming for its new Net radio device.

Online radio programming from MusicMatch, Radio Free Virgin and iM Networks' iM Tuning service will be available through the Philips' new broadband audio system, Streamium MC-I 200, the companies said. The device, scheduled for release to consumers this summer, is a hi-fi system that looks similar to a boom box but is capable of receiving multiple online music services.

The deals come as online music is increasingly moving off the PC and into the living room and portable devices. RealNetworks, for example, is making aggressive moves to blend its software into new home entertainment systems developed by TiVo and Moxi Digital.

The evolution, however, will depend upon whether a mix of initiatives by key players can influence the habits of music enthusiasts.

Phil Benyola, a digital media research associate for investment company Raymond James Financial, said it may take the cooperation of the major record labels to push online music down new avenues. But smaller independent players and major consumer electronics companies can also take on significant roles by finding solutions that "might make the process a little more rapid," he said.

For example, Benyola said MusicMatch "has always been ahead of the curve" and "able to really push the envelope with new technologies." He noted, however, that it remains to be seen whether placing its Radio MX service on Philips' device will thrust MusicMatch into the spotlight.

"Even if this Radio MX doesn't become a huge consumer offering, it's very important for the companies that survive the dot-com collapse to continue experimenting," Benyola said. "It's important that we get things out there and see what sticks."