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Open Service Gateway to connect the wired home to the wired planet

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A consortium of 15 major IT and telecoms companies today launched the Open Service Gateway (OSG), a Java-based interface standard for connecting consumer and small business appliances and systems to the Internet. The companies involved -- IBM, Sun, Toshiba, Oracle, Network Computer (so Larry Ellison is represented twice, Sybase, Motorola, Lucent, Nortel, Cable & Wireless, Ericsson, Alcatel, Philips, Electricite de France and Enron Communications -- will jointly draw up the OSG spec., which will, they say, "allow the consolidation and management of voice, data and multimedia communications too and from the home". The specification will also provide for sufficiently secure connections to be made to allow utility metering devices, burglar alarms, fire alarms medical alert kit and the like to be linked to service providers and emergency services via the Net. It's that LAN-to-WAN connectivity angle that separates the OSG from the numerous emerging home networking, network infrastructure, and device communication and co-operation technologies, such as Microsoft's HomePnP, Sun's own Jini, the consumer electronics industry's HAVi and Bluetooth. While these standards are fighting among themselves to see how devices on a network talk to each other, the OSG will get on with defining how those devices communicate with the outside world. It will also establish the idea that such devices can and will communicate with service providers directly, rather than via a Windows PC, which is how Microsoft would do (and probably is, through its Millennium project). Microsoft is, of course, the most notable absence in the OSG member list, but given who is there and the technology's foundation on Java, it's not surprising the Beast of Redmond wasn't invited to the party. And indeed the real winner here is Sun. Not only does it gets to earn open source brownie points -- all the OSG specs. and APIs will be released under Sun's open(ish) software licence -- but it will strengthen Java's position and improve Jini's chances of winning the home and office LAN war. It should be good for most of the other players too, though more through the scope it gives them to define the spec. than for any direct financial rewards. Oracle, for instance, will probably ensure the OSG is primed for its next attempt to flog video on-demand. Toshiba and Philips will probably use the spec. to pave the way for delivering digital TV via the Web, and connecting hi-fi kit to the Net to download music. Motorola will look forward to selling the embedded CPUs that will power all those Java Virtual Machines being built into all these networked appliances. IBM might submit its Madison Project digital music delivery system. In any case, it gets a buzz out of still being invited to sit on technology standards committees. This particular committee is set to post its draft OSG spec. for public scrutiny by the middle of the year, once the 15 have made their own recommendations. ®

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