CES 2006 Profile: Belkin

Computer and digital gear accessories company Belkin was out on the CES 2006 floor showcasing a wide array of new products for the coming year. The most interesting of these items include a wireless USB hub, accessories for the iPod and accessories for portable XM Satellite Radio devices.

Belkin’s new wireless, four port USB hub is called the CableFree USB. Available in the spring of 2006, the CableFree USB is powered by Freescale Semiconductor’s Ultra-Wideband technology. This enables people to place their laptop anywhere in a room while still maintaining a wireless connection to USB devices such as printers and MP3 players. Freescale and Belkin say the UWB wireless technology is 100 times faster then Bluetooth and can allow multimedia streams to broadcast in real time.

In the realm of iPod related accessories, Belkin’s most interesting announcements focused on an A/V docking station and several FM transmission devices. The A/V docking station is called the Belkin TuneCommand AV for iPod. This device, when it begins shipping in April, will allow users to power and charge their iPod while at the same time accessing their player’s content wirelessly up to 120 feet away using RF technology. An included wireless remote will allow users to control the iPod as it does such things as play music through a home stereo system or display videos or photos on a television.

Belkin’s new TuneBase FM for iPod and TuneBase FM for iPod nano, meanwhile, will become available this month. Both devices allow iPod users to power, charge and listen to an iPod simultaneously while in a car. The TuneBases draw power from a cigarette-lighter port and the FM transmission function, which utilizes the iPod’s LCD for tuning, can play on any FM channel across the spectrum. The iPod is mounted in a swivel style cradle with a flexible steel neck during the whole time.

Those wanting a smaller FM transmitter form factor then the TuneBase FM might be interested instead in Belkin’s new TuneFM for iPod and TuneFM for iPod nano. Both devices, which will be available by March, tune to any FM frequency to allow the iPod to play through a stereo. These devices connect to the dock connector of a compatible iPod and use the player’s LCD screen to indicate the FM frequency. The TuneFMs are powered by the iPod’s battery, so no other power source is required.

Belkin’s XM Satellite Radio offerings focus on an array of accessories for the new XM/MP3 players from Pioneer and Samsung as well as the older XM Plug-n-Play players such as the Delphi RoadyXT and Audiovox Xpress. Of all of the cases and other items announced, the Audio System for XM Radio and Portable Audio System for XM standout the most. The former is a small boom box looking device, priced at $99.99 and available in February, which will fit the XM Plug-n-Play units. It sports in integrated handle, water resistant cover and has a slot to slip the XM player into. Sound is pumped out through a 2-way speaker system with 5 watts of RMS per channel and 4 inch woofers as well as 13mm tweeters. It includes a built-in antenna and wireless remote control.

As for the Portable Audio System for XM, which is also designed for the RoadyXT and Xpress, it is priced at $99.99 and should be available in March. It appears as a set of antenna headphones which enhance XM satellite reception. The Portable Audio System for XM comes with a battery pack which attaches to the XM receiver with a custom sleeve and sports a rechargeable battery with four hours of playtime. Other features include built in volume control and a belt clip design.

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