Microsoft and 3Com will work together to produce co-branded home networking products that will allow consumers to connect their home PCs to share Internet access, peripherals and applications.
The first products, to be released in the second and third quarter of this year, will include Ethernet and phone line networking kits, the companies said in a statement. Future versions will also allow wireless data transmission over radio frequencies, as well as over home electrical wiring.
With a single Internet connection, two or more people in a home will be able to surf the Web simultaneously. Because of the ability to share applications, home networks will eventually lead to new "lifestyle applications" -- including shared family scheduling, family messaging, distance learning and multimedia entertainment applications such as multiplayer gaming and whole-house audio on demand, said the companies.
Consumers will be able to chose from several different types of networked connectivity, including the use of traditional phone lines. The phone-line networking solutions will be compatible with standards from the HomePNA (Home Phoneline Networking Association), an industry-sponsored group that has developed standards for home networking.
The basic network kits will provide 10Mbps performance, said the companies. Higher performance product lines will include Ethernet solutions based on 3Com's chipsets. In the future, the product line will also include high-speed radio frequency and power-line connectivity solutions.
The products will be easy to use for consumers with limited technical knowledge, the companies promised. They will automatically configure computers and be available in a range of form factors, including USB adapters that enable plug-and-play connectivity.