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Commentary: Let me entertain you

The Internet Home Alliance's goal should be "Let me entertain you."

By Todd Hanson, Gartner Dataquest Analyst

Do consumers really want to have their home's computers, electronic devices and appliances linked together or connected to the Internet?

See news story:
Tech giants, retailers team on home networking
Or is the future of home networking technology more in the white-gloved hands of Mickey Mouse and other icons of the entertainment world?

More likely the latter, believes Dataquest, a unit of Gartner.

The use of broadband connections and high-speed digital subscriber line Internet hookups into a residential network will likely be driven by suppliers that can entice consumers to pay a premium for the value of such networking. And the premium most likely paid by technologically savvy consumers will be for entertainment content.

Entertainment content is the "killer" application that will drive home networking. Consumers will receive movies, sports events or concerts filtered through a residential gateway or similar device that then distributes the content throughout the home. People will be able to view the movies and other content on Web-enabled PCs, stereos, interactive TVs, or other Internet appliances or special-purpose devices.

Moreover, home-control systems will present tremendous consumer value opportunities. By dint of the gateway device, consumers will be able to create their ideal "smart" house, whereby they can link their heating and air conditioning systems, security, lighting, lawn watering and other home maintenance actions.

The Internet Home Alliance is a welcome initiative. Its efforts to collaborate and establish minimal hardware and technology standards for distributing open content throughout a digital home network will help businesses hasten a new age of anywhere, anytime home entertainment.

In particular, the alliance addresses the fear that one major consumer-electronics manufacturer will be first out of the box with a gateway device that uses its own dedicated technology. Dataquest believes this fear is warranted. A proliferation of competing devices could ensue and create a Babel of technologies.

The result? Dazed and confused consumers, and a near knockout punch for the reality of home networking.

Microsoft will likely refrain from being bullish in this area for a while. For example, not only is Microsoft not a member of the alliance, but Dataquest expects that alternative (non-PC) Internet-access devices and information and entertainment services will spur demand for home networking equipment. Supplier home networking strategies have moved from a PC data-centric networking focus to one that incorporates the importance of entertainment content, telephony services and high-speed Internet access.

The bottom line is that Gartner believes the alliance is a step in the right direction for a coordinated effort that is needed to bridge data communications, telecommunications, entertainment distribution and home-control services within the home.

(For related commentary on home networks, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.