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Digital home alliance tunes up

Consortium introduces guidelines for building PCs and electronics that will share digital content with one another.

An alliance of tech giants on Tuesday will introduce guidelines for building PCs and electronics that will conveniently share content with one another.

As expected, the year-old Digital Home Working Group announced a new name for the group, Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), and released guidelines, called Home Networked Device Interoperability Guidelines version 1.0, to be used by the alliance's 145 member companies.

The guidelines include the standards chosen by the alliance to lead to the best experience for the consumer. The group also is developing a logo that companies can use to indicate that products are compatible with one other.

The guidelines are the first step toward creating a common foundation for companies to build products that can share and play back digital content no matter which manufacturer built the device or what kind of gadget is used. It is part of an increasing effort by technology and electronics companies to allow consumers to get more use out of their devices.

The alliance is working to develop a "wired and wireless network for digital content...that can be seamlessly shared" on all manner of devices everywhere, said DLNA Chairman Scott Smyers.

Smyers added that many of the companies in the alliance have worked separately on the same vision of connecting products so that consumers can share resources at home in much the same way they might share a printer or broadband connection at work. By working together, the companies can more quickly push the convergence of the PC and electronics industries.

However, with heavyweights such as Intel, Sony, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard in the mix, reaching a consensus may be difficult, especially given that many of the companies have pre-existing plans already in use. The DNLA, which was formed last June with 17 members, missed an earlier, self-imposed deadline for creating the guidelines.

The DLNA won't create standards but will use the ones that it deems are best and work with standards bodies to incorporate important issues. The group also is working on certification and compliance tests for products that will carry the DLNA logo.

The next big hurdle for the alliance will be incorporating content protection technology into its guidelines--something that will be just as challenging as reaching agreement on the initial guides.

Digital rights management "will be an order of magnitude larger than what we've done so far," said Pat Griffis, vice chairman of the board of directors for the DLNA.