Microsoft lined up supporters this week for its Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) approach to home networking in an effort to eclipse Sun?s rival Jini technology.
And three months after the software giant announced UPnP at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the technology appears to be gaining momentum.
At the Winhec conference in Los Angeles this week, 26 additional vendors including Canon, Gateway, IBM, Quantum and Sony, said they would support it, bringing the total number to 54.
UPnP is widely seen as Microsoft?s answer to Sun?s Jini technology, which also promises to enable appliances to work together seamlessly over a network. But while Jini is based on Sun?s Java programming language and Virtual Machine, UpnP exploits two other widely used Internet technologies - TCP/IP and XML (eXtensible Markup Language).
A UPnP device includes a small embedded Web server that registers the device on the network by publishing an XML page, which lists the device?s features.
But Microsoft made a big effort to address the widespread criticism that UPnP is a Windows only technology.
Carl Stork, general manager of Microsoft?s Windows Operating System division, said: "It?s not PC centric. The PC is not required for UPnP networking."
Executives also maintained that UpnP was more and not less open than Sun?s Jini.
Michael Wehrs, Microsoft?s scenario planner, claimed: "Jini will require you to use a Java Virtual Machine and Sun?s development tools," but it would be cheaper and easier for appliance vendors to support UPnP.
He also argued that Jini vendors would pay royalties on every unit sold, while UpnP was free and did not require vendors to license any technology.
UPnP support will be available for Windows 2000, Windows 98 and Windows CE by the end of 1999.
But Microsoft also announced the formation of the UPnP Forum, an industry group that will develop UpnP specifications. The group will meet for the first time on 7 June, and is expected to complete XML templates for various classes of devices such as printers or digital cameras in the third quarter.
Some vendors are expected to ship products based on preliminary templates before then, however, and the first UPnP devices to hit the market this year are likely to be PC peripherals such as printers and digital cameras.
In fact, more than twenty vendors participated in a UPnP showcase at Winhec, demonstrating prototype devices that interoperated in a living room and home office setting.
Quantum showed its network connected hard drive, NEC demonstrated a printer, and Axis Communications, a digital camera and print server to connect existing printers to UPnP networks, enabling them to be detected and used by other UPnP devices.
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