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Cisco details its home network plans

Families will soon be able to network the home with the same Cisco Systems technology that underpins vast corporate networks.

Families will soon be able to create local area networks connecting the kitchen to the living room with the same Cisco Systems technology that underpins vast corporate networks.

Cisco announced today that it, along with its partners in the consumer electronics world, will begin selling cable modems that offer high-speed data, voice, and video connections. The networking company also announced integrated products capable of creating home networks.

The widely anticipated announcement marks a significant change in the strategy of the company, which is known for its corporate technology.

"We're going into the consumer space based on an Internet platform," said Bethany Mayer, senior product manager for Cisco. "We're bringing the Internet into the consumer space and into the residence."

Cisco has developed cable modems with voice-over-IP capabilities with partners like Sony and Samsung, to be sold under the Cisco NetWorks brand name. These modems, while providing super-fast Internet access, also use the Internet to provide phone services like caller ID, call forwarding, and conferencing, as well as virtual private networks.

The company also announced today a non-exclusive agreement with General-Instrument to develop data, voice, and video services over AT&T and TCI's cable network.

"AT&T and TCI are building an infrastructure that will allow you to plug your phone into a cable modem--it turns the Internet into a phone service," Mayer explained. "When you pick up the phone it would transmit in IP packets?just like data over cable. It's why AT&T acquired TCI, to be honest."

Additionally, Cisco has also developed a home office product, priced under $1,000, which will offer integrated voice, data, and video services. The Cisco 924, which works much like a router in a corporate network, offers four Ethernet ports, and two voice ports, Mayer said, connecting four PCs or Internet devices, such as the set-top box Cisco has developed with Hitachi.

Cisco's conception of a home network eventually includes integrated security systems and connected appliances, according to Mayer.

"The plan and strategy is to move multiple devices into the home--like a LAN for the home," she said. "You could network so many things--IP phones, all your alarm systems, you could network fridges, or Web devices, and PCs."