The fertile ground of California has produced another start-up company, boasting Microsoft backing and a mission to link up home appliances and personal computers.
The 18-month old company, Share Wave, intends to establish the PC as a central device, controlling the other numerous electronic gadgets in the home. Share Wave claims it can harness high speed wireless technology to channel data from TV to PC to telephone. This will be carried by one high bandwidth communications link that enters the home from outside.
?It will be a technology that starts to establish the PC as this central information furnace or server in the home,? said Bob Bennett, president and co-founder of Shock Wave.
The first product is scheduled to ship later this year and will focus on connecting PCs to the TV. The devices and software will be embedded in electronic appliances and are expected to sell for under $500.
The start-up said it has raised $7.5 million from a mix of venture capital funds and heavyweight industry backers including Microsoft, Vulcan Ventures - headed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen - and a ?large microprocessor maker in Santa Clara, California,? official code for Intel.
Set up in 1996, by thirtysomething Bennett and three other co-founders, the operation in the El Dorado hills employs 60 people. Three of its founders formerly worked for Intel. Bennett worked as a marketing manager for branded products, while Geoff Bland, Shock Wave?s business and finance director, was vice president for an investment fund company.
With the explosion of information from the Web and convergence offered through digital technology Shock Wave aims to produce practical and affordable technology.
But it has to overcome the sneers of industry sceptics, so used to seeing revolutionary ideas slide into vapourware.
?We?re bound to be accused of being into vapourware,? admitted David Smith, director of consumer marketing. ?But we are keen to focus on tangible benefits which allow families to interact on stereos, TVs and PCs. In the future people will demand interactivity.?
Smith broke down Shock Wave?s market into three areas: co-branding with PC manufacturers, TV/stereos and the peripherals sector. He added that Microsoft feels the venture complements its plans to develop the Web TV market.
However, according to John Moroney, a new media analyst at Ovum, Share Wave should refrain from cracking open the vintage champagne. ?They?re trying to set up a network server for home entertainment but the market is too early for that. They?ll have to compete with and take functions from $400 set-top boxes in the Web TV market and won?t become fully marketable until 2004.?
While Moroney acknowledged the potential for wiring up diverse home appliances he claimed to see a weak link in the system: ?If you run your TV, kitchen appliances and PC all from the same server, downloading features when you need them, what happens when the system goes wrong? It?s a huge amount of functionality to place in one spot.?
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