To keep rival Sun Microsystems from getting too much of a head start, Microsoft is creating its own software infrastructure to link network devices.
Microsoft is working on technology to challenge Sun's Jini, a distributed computing technology designed to tie together the upcoming generation of smart devices that range from smart phones to video cameras to printers.
A source close to the effort confirmed published reports that the work is under way "across most departments" at Microsoft. "People in Microsoft are meeting about it daily," said the source, which called it a home networking effort.
A suddenly coy Microsoft this week refused to comment and also rejected requests to interview Carl Stork, general manager of Microsoft's hardware strategy, despite the fact that he was quoted in a published report this week on the subject.
"All that's needed is a small amount of software in a PC to identify devices.... We're working on it," Stork told US publication, EE Times. He also said Microsoft's vision was to add IP support to devices to link to networks and use software on the PC to recognise them; Jini puts the smarts in the devices.
The Jini infrastructure, built on the platform-independent Java language, was designed to be embedded into various devices and bypass device-to-device connections in the corporate network. The goal is to let users connect devices to the operating system without any configuration or integration. "You may go out and buy one of 30 printers, and you don't want to care what it is. You want to plug it in and have it work," said Colin Mahony, a Yankee Group analyst.
Jini isn't yet on the market, but device manufacturers -- such as Sweden's Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericcson -- are working to embed the Jini technology into their products.
"Jini will always offer more promise as long as it's cross-platform and Microsoft isn't," Mahony added.