Internet computing appliances like 3Com's Palm handheld device, Microsoft's WebTV and Plug 'n' Talk Barbies are only a shadow of things to come.
During the Comdex/Fall show in Las Vegas this week, companies like Compaq, Intel and Epigram demonstrated embedded systems and network connections that could do a variety of home based tasks from downloading recipes to creating Lego toys.
"When you leave the house and turn on the security system your PC can turn off the heat and put the lights on a time to make it look like someone's home," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, speaking at a panel entitled 'The smart connected home...the future is closer than you think'.
Bajarin noted that, of the 40 million US households already using the Internet, more than 18 million or half those homes have two or more PCs. The convergence of multiple PCs in the home and the increasing usage of the Internet at home are driving the need for high speed connectivity in the home.
Compaq president Eckhard Pfeiffer announced the world's first broadband ready Internet PCs with integrated Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) modems to provide Net connections up to 25 times faster than current 56Kbps modems.
He explained it was part of the company's triple play strategy: cable, DSL and satellite (see seperate story).
Targeting the home audience, Pfeiffer also introduced the new Presario 5100c Series which starts at $1,5999. It includes a 400Mhz AMD K6-2 processor and 128Mbytes of memory, 8Gbytes hard drive and 8Mbytes video memory.
Pfeiffer said the broadband access has also been designed for a variety of devices. He added, "using the home network the Internet will be as easy to use as today's telephone".
3Com and Epigram said they will develop and deliver a new generation of products providing 10Mbps home connectivity. Patent pending Epigram technology defines a low cost scalable phoneline Ethernet network running at 10Mbps today explained Tony Zuccarino, vice president of marketing at Epigram.
"In the future, high speed data, voice and video will need no new wiring," he said. "The residence is the frontier for the home network."
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