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MS adopts Sun ‘open source’ model for UPnP

Source code to be free, development to be led by six-company Forum

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Microsoft took its plan to dominate the emerging home networking market a step further yesterday with the launch of the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) Forum trade association and the posting of the technology's core source code under an open source-style licence. The company also announced 26 IT and consumer electronics companies, most notably Sony, had signed up to support the technology since the original 28 backers who comitted themselves to UPnP when it was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas back in January. Central to Microsoft's latest moves is the opening of the UPnP source code. Announcing the company's plans at WinHEC 99, group product manager Phil Holden said: "We're trying to make the source readily available for no cost... to gain adoption from industry." What it's really about is mirroring the approach taken by Sun with its UPnP rival, Jini. After the UPnP launch, Sun announced it would offer Jini under its Java Commiunity Licence, opening its source code to anyone who wants to use it. Charges only apply if and when products based on that source code make money. The UPnP Forum and its six charter members (Microsoft, Gateway, Intel, Dell, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Axis Communications) will lead development of the technology and promote its adoption. Again, it's about doing for UPnP what Sun does for Jini. As for the technology's supporters, many of them also back Jini and a number of other device connection systems, such as Home Audio/Video Interconnection (HAVi). That suggests all these technologies will for some time co-exist. Few manufacturers, particularly those in the consumer electronics space, will want to risk losing sales by not supporting the interconnection technology that links a customers' other appliances. While the IT industry quite likes systems that compete, the rather more mature consumer electronics business prefers interoperability. Still, the names Microsoft has garnered so far, including Sanyo, Mitsubishi, Casio, Canon, Matsushita ans Sega, shows that UPnP is viewed a little more seriously than its original appearance as a Jini spoiler suggested. ®

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