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S3 to licence Rio technology

Attempt to expand market a la Palm

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S3 wants to the digital music world's answer to Palm Computing. To make it happen, the former graphics chip vendor is embarking on a major licencing programme to change Rio from a device into an entire platform of products. There's even an element of Big Brother about S3's strategy, which will "extend the Rio technology and brand into every aspect of consumers' lives". You have been warned. S3's licensing programme will operate under the Rio Audio badge, and is essentially about getting third-parties - or "a select group of consumer companies" - to create Rio-compatible products of their own. S3 has obviously been working on this idea for some time, since it reckons it will be able to start naming partners real soon now. S3 itself will continue to pursue its own Rio hardware development efforts, in particular a line of in-car and home audio machines designed for connection to hi-fi stacks and the like rather than just boxes that hook up to a PC. The PC will remain an important source of digital music files but not exclusively: the Rio Jukebox, for instance, will have the ability to download files itself. S3 is also building in support for home networking, though it didn't say whether it will simply support its own products, or take in emerging technologies, such as HAVi, U-PnP and Jini, too. On the portable side, S3 said it will expand the Rio line to target a variety of different users. S3 didn't list the formats all these machines will support, but with MP3, Liquid Audio and Real Audio already in the works, it's not hard to see where the company is going. Indeed, it said it is exploring the use of a "programmable processor" which can be upgraded with new formats as they arise. ®

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