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Hayes hedges bets on modems

The manufacturer will sell modems based on U.S. Robotics' 56-kbps standard, dealing a blow to competing technology from Rockwell.

Hayes Microcomputer Products will now sell 56-kbps modems based on technology from U.S. Robotics (USRX) through a subsidiary company.

Hayes, to date, has supported only the competing Rockwell standard. The move may indicate a lack of confidence in the ability of Rockwell Semiconductor (ROK) to deliver its competing 56-kbps modem technology on time.

The Hayes subsidiary, Practical Peripherals, will sell the x2 modems.

Hayes, the second largest modem maker in the American marketplace, has until now said it would only back Rockwell's competing 56-kbps modem technology called K56flex. But Hayes will now be able to hedge its bets on who wins the 56-kbps standards battle by selling modems that use U.S Robotics' technology.

U.S Robotics is currently the largest modem maker, with approximately one-third of the domestic market.

Hayes says, however, that its branded products will still be based solely on the Rockwell K56flex technology.

"Hayes endorses the K56flex technology in the hopes that it will become a de facto standard. All products sold under the Hayes brand name will use K56flex technology," as well as most Practical Peripheral modems, a company spokeswoman said.

"However, to meet the demand from early adopters, we also decided to ship x2-based modems under the Practical Peripherals brand name," she added. Hayes says that besides giving customers an option, it can also take away some market share from U.S. Robotics.

Currently, the technologies from Rockwell and USR aren't able to communicate with each other, so in order to get the faster connections users have to make sure that their Internet service provider or online service uses the same technology.

If the majority of consumers buy into x2 technology, online service providers will be forced to do so as well, giving it a windfall in licensing fees.