Microsoft unveils home networking plan

If Microsoft has its way in the future your PC will talk to your TV which in turn, could talk to things as lowly as a lamp.

In a speech given on Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in the US, Microsoft Senior Vice President of Consumer Strategy Craig Mundie described the software giant's strategy for turning the home into a connected network of appliances. "The real improvement is not making any one of these devices smarter, but making them more intelligent as a whole," he said.

Towards that end Microsoft announced its Universal Plug and Play initiative, which intends to make connecting consumer appliances and information devices as easy as plugging them into a socket.

The concept is not new. Server maker Sun Microsystems Inc. stressed how important networking is to today's users with the phrase "the network is the computer." Moreover, Oracle Corp. and its flamboyant CEO Larry Ellison has waxed poetic on many occasion about making devices smarter and connecting them together.

Yet Microsoft has brought together a powerful coalition of companies behind its Universal Plug and Play initiative. Among their number are Intel Corp., 3Com Corp., AT&T Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq:DELL) and 17 others.

For Microsoft the initiative is a key play to grab a large portion of the future consumer appliance market. To do that it will have to deal with different networks, which the consumer electronics industry is pushing at this time. "We don't see an environment that uses a single type of network dominating the home," Mundie said.

The Universal Plug and Play initiative will be Internet protocol based, which means engineers will have a lot of history upon which to draw. In Microsoft's vision of the future, home devices will all synchronise with each other, and every appliance will be intelligent.

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