Be, Inc.'s HARP: "Reference Platform" for Internet Audio?

At massive gatherings like the Consumer Electronics Show, some truly newsworthy developments by small companies go unnoticed, overshadowed by splashy launches put on by bigger firms. One such is Be, Inc.'s "Home Audio Reference Platform" (BeIA HARP), an all-purpose computer audio system. HARP will let computers access and broadcast Internet-based audio and services, and will also let them play CDs, tapes, and LPs.

Be, Inc. is well known for its BeOS, a cross-platform operating system. The Menlo Park, CA–based company debuted its HARP system for consumer electronics manufacturers at the Las Vegas show. "The device works as a home jukebox, encoding and storing audio for easy retrieval and playback. Consumers may use the device to organize and archive an entire household's audio content, from CDs, LPs, and tapes to Internet audio, including MP3 and other popular streaming formats," according to a January 8 press release.

Employing standard RCA connectors, HARP can play over a home audio system, while simultaneously streaming different music and audio content to any networked device in the home. HARP can acquire and save audio from CDs, tapes, LPs, handheld MP3 players, and Internet sources (AIF, WAV, MP3, RealAudio, etc.). It can also "stream Internet radio and popular Web formats," the announcement claims. "HARP links with Internet content services to deliver audio and subscription-based services for news and other non-music audio content."

HARP's filing system makes organizing and searching a music collection easy, claim its designers. Audio files are cross-referenced by artist's name, album title, genre, artwork, record label, etc.—fields that can be searched simultaneously. Customized playlists can be compiled quickly using the system, say Be executives. "The beauty of HARP is that it is highly modular and can be managed remotely, without user intervention. HARP can grow to support new and emerging technologies and audio formats, so that a user may never outgrow a BeIA HARP-based device," according to Lamar Potts, marketing vice president for Be.

Amateur disc jockeys and karaoke fans may find a lot to like about HARP. Images on "enhanced CDs" and song lyrics can be fed to TVs or monitors. Special effects, likely to be of little interest to audiophiles, include the capacity for adding "reverb" and "ambience" to playback. HARP's design includes "automatic support for new audio compression formats." The modular system will be available in the second quarter of 2001.