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90 per cent of Sony devices to be networked by 2010

But do we need another standard?

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Sony intends to have 90 per cent of its products networked up by 2010, though how many of them will be using the company's proprietary TransferJet technology remains to be seen.

Stan Glasgow, president of consumer sales at Sony, mentioned the figure to a group of journalists in San Francisco including tech-blog Gizmodo, indicating that the company wants to see all those devices able to exchange content at the push of a button, or even automatically.

Sony is well placed to drive wireless technology into the home since it makes cameras for creating content and TVs for viewing it. And with Ultra Wide Band (UWB) there's finally the bandwidth available for throwing high-definition video around the place.

But while the rest of the world feels that two UWB standards is enough (Wireless USB and WiMedia), Sony decided it could do better and in January launched its own version, branded "TransferJet".

TransferJet takes the short-range, high-capacity attitude of UWB to the logical extreme: devices can't be more than 3cm apart, but bandwidth is 560Mb/sec with very low power consumption. The problem isn't that the devices have to be close together - placing a camera on top of a TV is pretty intuitive anyway - but that (for the moment at least) both devices have to come from Sony.

Quite why Sony wanted its own standard isn't clear. As Eric Broockman of UWB-suppliers Alereon puts it: "The peculiar thing about Sony’s demonstration of a proprietary UWB solution is that it doesn’t appear to provide any value over simply using industry standard WiMedia UWB... If Sony were to use an Alereon UWB chipset transferring at 480 Mbps and operate it at 1000 times less power than standard FCC transmit power levels – the same as Transfer Jet – the range for our industry standard solution would be about 2 to 4 inches."

We don't know for certain that Glasgow was referring to TransferJet, and Sony hasn't yet responded to our request for clarification, but when the technology was announced in January Sony promised products by the middle of 2009, which would fit the schedule.

For NFC, Bluetooth, UWB or any other wireless technology to spread into homes they will need the backing of someone like Sony, spanning the business as it does from hi-fi to Wi-Fi, and it's unlikely anyone else would have the power to push their own standard into enough homes. It might seem anti-competitive, but if it wasn't for proprietary standards from Sony none of us would be listening to minidiscs today... oh wait. ®

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