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3Com and MS team to build NT into networking gear

And the alliance seems to put the pair squarely in competition with Intel

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Microsoft has won 3Com backing for its embedded NT strategy, with the announcement yesterday of a broad-ranging alliance between the two companies. 3Com is to open a development centre near Microsoft’s Redmond HQ, and the companies propose a range of converged products incorporating 3Com and Microsoft NT/Windows 2000 technology. The deal will increase Microsoft’s ability to resist the "embedded server appliance" strategy that’s being built by its old partner (and in the networking field, deadly 3Com rival) Intel. As Intel has fleshed out its plans for building greater intelligence into networks and network equipment it’s become abundantly clear that there’s little room in them for the kind of large, resource-hungry multi-purpose server OS Microsoft specialises in. The rival Microsoft-3Com plans have a heavy embedded component to them, and that’s likely to increase. For public carriers and service providers 3Com intends to migrate its Total Control systems, which already use NT, to Windows NT Embedded, as and when it ships. 3Com will also embed Windows 2000 Server in its CoreBuilder 9000 LAN switch, and use of Microsoft OS technology in other product lines, including the SuperStack II, is also being investigated. Plans for the home seem vaguer, but are clearly vital to the pair. They say they’re "collaborating on home LAN and broadband access solutions" which will be available in the first half, and on Microsoft’s recently-announced Universal Plug and Play. The timescale probably means the companies are going to start off with relatively loose bundling deals, but Microsoft clearly needs to get networking technology into the home before somebody else (e.g. Intel) does, so the alliance obviously has to go further. Again, embedded NT seems a likely candidate, and the intended form here is likely to be fairly simple networking devices that allow several PCs in a home to communicate and use DSL pipes to get to the outside world. Ultimately this also obviously overlaps with the Universal Plug and Play project, which is Microsoft’s slightly Java-esque plan to roll interoperability out beyond the PC space. ®

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