The DreamScreen is a freestanding display that plays music, shows pictures, and connects to Facebook and other sites over a home network, without being attached to a PC.
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Hewlett-Packard is offering non-PC devices that can play music and show pictures directly from the Internet or a home computer.
The DreamScreen is designed to fit on a nightstand, dresser, kitchen counter, or coffee table and is meant to complement the PC in the home, not replace it. The device comes in two sizes, a 10.2-inch model and a 13.3-inch version.
The DreamScreen can connect to the Internet through a wired or wireless network. The gadget is piano-black with a flush glass widescreen display and is designed to be a more elegant alternative to the PC in a living room, bedroom, or kitchen.
The device does not have a Web browser. Instead, HP has worked with specific Internet companies to provide interfaces to their services. Those partners include photo-sharing site Snapfish, which is owned by HP, the Pandora Internet radio station, and social network Facebook.
DreamScreen can also access photos and music from networked home PCs and can play video and other digital content loaded from a USB drive or from a flash memory card. The DreamScreen comes with 2 GB of built-in memory for storing content.
HP has built its own DreamScreen software, called SmartRadio, which aggregates streams of Internet broadcasts from more than 10,000 radio stations. The device also has a built-in alarm clock, calendar, and provides a five-day weather forecast.
DreamScreen comes with a remote control and touch screen. The smaller model, available as of Thursday, costs $249 and is available online through Best Buy, Amazon, and HP. Retail stores will start selling the device Oct. 11.
The 13.3-inch model will sell for for $299 and is scheduled to be available in the fall.
HP is not the first company to offer a non-PC device for connecting to the Web. Microsoft in early 2002 launched the Smart Display initiative. The device was a portable touchscreen LCD monitor that connected to a home PC via Wi-Fi and ran a version of Microsoft's Windows CE. ViewSonic was the first manufacturer to sell a Smart Display. However, Microsoft dropped the initiative in late 2003 due to poor sales.
Today, manufacturers are bringing Internet access to a variety of consumer electronics, including digital video recorders, high-definition TVs, and Blu-ray disc players.
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