Saturday, January 01, 2000

US leaders back networked home.

Maytag announced January 4 a partnership with the aim of linking its machines to the Internet.  CEO Lloyd Ward would even like to make "products that can think so you don't have to."  Microsoft chairman Bill Gates no doubt shares this vision, hence Microsoft's signing January 13 a deal with GE to develop networked appliances.  Not a particularly surprising move, as home networks analyst Kurt Scherf of Parks Associates explains:  "Microsoft ... has been shaken by the speed in which Sun's software has been embraced by a number of big-name players."

GE's appliances — still at the concept stage for now — will use Microsoft-backed 'Universal Plug and Play' technology.  This standard, incompatible with Java-based systems, means in theory that a GE and a Whirlpool smart appliance will not be able to communicate in a networked kitchen.  For the moment, however, this is the least of the industry's worries.  Despite these alliances, Scherf believes networked kitchen appliances will take up to four years to catch on.   "The only way home networking will succeed is behind the well-publicized efforts of well-recognized players."  Such publicity would have to stress the practical advantages of smart appliances to avoid scaring the consumer, already overwhelmed by current technological progress.

From the article "US leaders back networked home."

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