MS, GE Announce Home Networking Standard

BOSTON (06/21/2000) - Microsoft Corp. announced Wednesday that it has partnered with General Electric Co. and a number of other companies to develop a new, unified home networking standard.

The new standard, dubbed SCP, or Simple Control Protocol, was unveiled at the Home Automation Show and Conference in Chicago. SCP is meant to increase interoperability with the current crop of home networking technologies through compatibility with Microsoft's Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) architecture, as well as devices based on IP (Internet Protocol), Microsoft said in a written statement. SCP also interacts with non-IP-capable devices such as refrigerators or coffee pots.

Home automation, the linking of all appliances within one household, allows computer users to control networked devices through their PCs, either at home or over the Internet. Such capabilities would allow for the automatic resetting of clocks after power outages and other useful applications, according to Shelley Olhava, an analyst with International Data Corp. (IDC.)UPnP, Microsoft's previous home networking standard, has been criticized for being too PC-focused and SCP may be a move to address the networking of non-computer devices, Olhava said. She also noted that Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Jini, one of UPnP's major competitors, already includes these appliances.

UPnP and SCP are not the only standards in this crowded market, however. Home PlugnPlay, backed by such companies as IBM Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Panasonic) and Honeywell, Inc., as well as Sun's Jini and Sony Corp.'s HAVi (home audio video interoperability) are also vying for dominance.

However, it is not yet clear which standard is most prevalent, Olhava said. In fact, she added, more than one of them may prosper, thus forcing compatibility.

Either way, Olhava doesn't expect to see many networked homes in the near future, instead saying that it will most likely be at least five years until a large percentage of homes are equipped.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, is at +1-425-882-8080 or http://www.microsoft.com/.

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