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A server in every pot?

IBM executives have their own version of putting a chicken in every pot.

ORLANDO, Florida--At a keynote panel discussion at an industry conference here, IBM (IBM) executives came up with their own version of putting a chicken in every pot.

"We want an IBM server in every home," said Robert Stephenson, senior vice president at IBM. "The S-series Aptiva is the beginning of this. We're going to hook up more and more things to that box."

The S-Series Aptiva, also known as the Stealth machine, is the recently introduced PC that puts the CPU and circuit board in a box that can be stored anywhere in a room but puts the CD-ROM and hard drives in another module that sits on the desktop.

IBM apparently envisions the S-Series as a server for the home. A home server not only would control the PC's peripherals and board functions, but also would serve as the hub of a home network that includes other PCs and household appliances such as air conditioners, lights, coffee makers, and alarms.

IBM is also looking at incorporating "intelligent agents" into home PCs. Stephenson said agents can go out and do things while people sleep, such as downloading information from Web sites.

The idea of using a computer to control household items, long a staple of science fiction, isn't new. Late last year, Compaq Computer invested in a company that has developed technology to connect a PC to ordinary household devices. Novell has also reportedly developed networking software for connecting devices using the electrical wiring inside the home.

Other vendors, such as Toshiba with its Infinia, are beginning to restyle the PC itself to look more like other appliances. And Intel is pushing the idea of a PC as the central device for family entertainment center, displacing the TV.