updated 08:25 am EST, Wed January 10, 2007
AOL and Haier iPod Rival
In a surprise demonstration, Haier at CES revealed that it will partner with media giant AOL to launch a new media player that it hopes will both break away from the software limits of current players while also providing a clear rival to the iPod and Zune. Dubbed the SmartScreens Media Device, the player uses an iPod-influenced menu system but is Linux-based, allowing for relatively easy changes to the software by developers and owners alike. Wi-Fi is the player's true appeal, Haier says. Contrasting against the Zune, whose Wi-Fi is limited to local sharing, the SmartScreens device connects to a wireless network to access Internet services from AOL. Any user can stream Internet radio stations for free, according to the two companies; it will also be possible to buy songs and other content directly from the handheld. Bluetooth adds the option of playing music through wireless headphones or speakers.
Complete music support for the player has not been mentioned by Haier, which says that its jukebox will support protected Windows Media stores from AOL, Napster, and Real as well as MPEG-4 and WMV video clips. Storage will match the entry full-size iPod and Zune players with a 30GB hard drive. The SmartScreens device should launch paired with the new AOL service in the second or third quarter of 2007 for an unknown price. See a complete photo afer the jump. [via PC Mag]