Motorola gears up for home networking

The company wants you to set your thermostat through your cell phone.

LAS VEGAS--Some people want the PC at the center of the home. Motorola is trying to make the cell phone that critical device.

A number of the Illinois-based electronics maker's upcoming releases are geared to work with cell phones. A set of specialized cradles for phones coming out later in the year, for instance, allows cell phones to get calls that came in on a home line. Software for controlling thermostats remotely can also be accessed through the phone.

"People want access through their personal device," said Dan Moloney, president of the connected home division at Motorola.

The company recently slipped to No. 3 in the cell phone market but is neck-and-neck with the new No. 2, Samsung.

Among the upcoming products Motorola is touting at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is a surveillance system that will let people get a video feed of their car in the driveway. There's also a device for beaming songs from a home music player to a hard drive in the car via Wi-Fi or cellular.

The company is also showing off the Ojo, a $799 videoconferencing phone for the home Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The home networking strategy embedded in many of these products comes courtesy of Ed Zander, who came to Motorola as CEO last January. The company consists of several divisions, and they often didn't synch perfectly with each other, Moloney said.

"One of the things Ed helped us do is look at things from a fresh perspective," he said.

While the networked-home concept was the butt of jokes a few years ago, Moloney, among others, believes demand is now more solid. PCs and cell phones are far more pervasive now than they were in 2000. The digitization of music and movies has also increased interest in passing these files around the house.

"We're one to two years away from where you will see an explosion of video content getting out of the home," he said.

Samsung is also aiming at the home-networking market. The Korean company plans to get the products to market by incorporating complete systems into new homes. By contrast, Motorola will mostly sell these products through retail.

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