While today's cell phones offer a wide range of multimedia functions it's sometimes difficult for users to make the most of everything the handsets offer.
Japanese mobile carrier AU is hoping to bridge this gap with its AU Box, a device that allows users to easily gather and enjoy music and video content from CDs, video cameras, TV's and the Internet and get them all in their cell phones.
It looks like a set-top box with a slot for CDs and DVDs on the front and ports behind where broadband internet, TV and the user's cell phone can be connected.
At its simplest level it can be used to transfer music to the cell phone. For example, to digitize music that's in a CD format just slot in the CD and the music is downloaded into the AU Box, converted and uploaded to a cell phone. The whole process is quite speedy -- an hour's worth of music can be ripped and transferred in just ten minutes. With a broadband connection users can also connect to AU's music download service and grab songs over the speedier broadband line rather than through their cell phones.
Apart from gathering a user's media, the AU Box can also take the place of a computer for some applications.
For example, users can surf the Internet and watch videos on demand from AU's Lismo video store using their televisions. Instead of a mouse, navigation is done through a remote that is similar to a cellphone's keypad, which means Internet access through the box is still patterned to that of a cell phone. This function is believed to benefit Japanese youngsters, most of whom do not own computers but have mobiles and televisions.
Additionally at home, users can watch cable TV through the service and a subscription to the Hikari One IPTV service of KDDI, the Japanese telecom carrier that owns AU.