Even the most clueless technophobe can stick a plug in a socket, right?


Tech Alliance Develops Plug-In Home Network—But Don’t Forget To Remove The Safety Covers
Motorola, Phonex Broadband and Sonicblue showed off their new electronic network technology at the information convention Comdex last week. The narrowband technology acts as a wireless phone jack, letting consumers use their existing power outlets for connecting PCs and other electronic devices. Though tech companies have been working toward a wireless electrical network in the home, this development could be more viable, since any appliance with a power cord can be networked. Besides that, even the most clueless technophobe can stick a plug in a socket.

The demonstration at Comdex showed how to plug a computer with MP3 music downloads into a regular electrical home outlet and then listen to the music on an Sonciblue Rio music player plugged into an outlet in a separate room. Phonex itself has been developing the technology for several years, but only via low-speed capabilities.

In addition, Cisco Systems, 3Com and others are working toward building new appliance called residential gateways that will put the networking technologies together, serving as an all-in-one appliance that can connect PCs, appliances, electronic devices and security systems with phone service and high-speed Net access.

The consortium of about 60 companies working toward connecting devices through home electrical lines also includes Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic and Sharp. The group, called the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, expects to have the high-speed prototype by next March and the first products using the technology by next summer.

Unfortunately, that means the technology won't be ready for the expected holiday buying crush. According to a nationwide poll conducted by Texas Instruments, consumers are expected to spend $10 billion on tech gadgets this holiday season, including wireless devices and interactive toys.