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3Com, MS form home networking product alliance

Network kits to push Universal Plug and Play, and Home Phone Networking Alliance

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3Com and Microsoft today announced they are to jointly develop a series of co-branded home networking products. The companies said the will offer four networking kits. The first two will be based on Ethernet and phone cabling, respectively. Both will go on sale to OEMs in the summer and to consumers in the autumn. The phone cabling kit will offer 10Mbps data throughput -- the Ethernet kit will use the 10/100Mbps standard. Later -- though neither Microsoft nor 3Com said when precisely -- the companies will add a radio-frequency kit to the line-up and a fourth pack that will allow users to network their PCs via their houses' power cables. The hardware side of the project seems to be pretty much a 3Com affair. Microsoft will be contributing software, specifically Windows 98 modem-sharing technology. It is also likely to use the kits to promote its Universal Plug and Play (UPnP -- which sounds to us more like the result to consuming too much beer than anything else) scheme for connecting multiple devices to a Wintel-based PC network. That could enable Microsoft to get UPnP out into the market ahead of devices based on Sun's rival networking technology, the Java-based Jini, and more home-oriented systems such as HAVi, developed by eight key players in the consumer electronics industry (see Microsoft touts PnP system for PCs and appliances). On the subject of networking standards bodies, Microsoft and 3Com said their phone cabling kit would be compatible with the Home Phone Networking Alliance (HomePNA) spec. HomePNA is backed by 3Com plus the likes of Lucent, AT&T, Tut Systems, HP, IBM, Intel, Compaq, AMD and, it was announced separately today, Matushita. The specification itself is based on Tut's 1Mbps networking technology. The body's stated goal is to get that up to 10Mbps -- the fact that's what the MS/3Com kit is expected to offer suggests HomePNA is getting close to that goal. It can network up to 25 devices. ® See also Intel, MS, Nortel, HP to unify Net technologies

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