To Be or Not To Be: That is the Audio Question

It would seem almost reasonable to imagine that your next stereo receiver or preamp could have an "intel inside" sticker on the front. Last week, software company Be made several announcements that it hopes will not only bring such a future to consumers, but also place itself at the center of the Internet-connected home-entertainment equipment market.

Be says that it and Intel will partner to design an Internet audio device intended for consumers, which will then be licensed to a variety of hardware manufacturers. Be has also announced a recent deal it has arranged with Hitachi's Digital Media Group to design "information appliances" for the Japanese market. The company points out that, unlike Microsoft, which also has designs on dominating the info appliance market, it does not require its logo to appear anywhere on the product.

Be also formally announced BeIA, previously known by the code name Stinger: a software platform for appliances that deliver information and entertainment over the Internet. Be states that "at the basis of these devices is the need for a simple, intuitive means of accessing the Internet without the cost, complexity, and hassles often associated with personal computers. Characterized by exceptional media handling, unfaltering stability, and broad application flexibility, devices based on the BeIA platform will deliver the richest possible Web experience to consumers, at a low cost and with the ease of use typical of popular consumer-electronics appliances."

At a conference last week, Be unveiled a prototype of an Internet device that functions as a stereo component, playing CDs and MP3 files while also streaming Internet digital audio formats such as RealNetworks throughout a home via Intel's AnyPoint home networking technology. Be's VP of marketing, Lamar Potts, describes the new component as "an entertainment-device replacement for a home stereo."