Big names work on standards for digital home

Seventeen high-tech and consumer electronics companies have banded together to develop standards that should make it easier for home users to share digital content between their PCs, televisions, stereos and other equipment in the home.

The Digital Home Working Group, a nonprofit organization including big names such as Microsoft Corp., Sony Corp., Royal Philips Electronics NV and Hewlett-Packard Co., hopes to deliver technical guidelines that will lead to the first interoperable equipment starting to appear within the year, the group said in a statement Tuesday.

The growing use of broadband at home, combined with widespread use of digital cameras, music players and other equipment, means consumers are collecting more and more digital content that they want to play back on devices spread around the home, the group said. However, the plethora of standards in use for storing content and connecting equipment can make setting up such a home complex and time-consuming.

The working group hopes to overcome this by creating a "platform of interoperability based on open industry standards" that eventually should make it easier for home users to zap video clips from their PC to their television set, for instance, or play music from an MP3 player through their home stereo. The group also listed mobile phones, printers, DVD players and digital projectors among the target devices.

The technology guidelines will make use of established standards such as Internet Protocol and Wi-Fi as well as emerging or subsequent versions of existing standards. Formats will have to be ratified by an international standards body and licensed under fair and reasonable terms, the group said.

The working group plans to come up with marketing and promotional programs to educate consumers, and products will likely be marked with a logo to show they meet the interoperability standards, the group said. More information is at http://www.dhwg.org/.

The other companies in the group are Fujitsu Ltd., Gateway Inc., IBM Corp., Intel Corp., Kenwood Corp., Lenovo (a brand of Legend Group Ltd.), NEC CustomTechnica Ltd., Nokia Corp., Panasonic (a brand of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd.), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp., STMicroelectronics NV and Thomson Multimedia SA.

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James Niccolai

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