Home networking remains at such an early stage that there are no clear leaders in the race to establish standards.
In fact, companies tend to participate in several of the many industry groups that have formed to work toward home networking standards. Companies take that approach so that they can keep an eye on what is happening throughout this still-developing field.
Accordingly, Sun's joining the Microsoft-led Universal Plug and Play (UpnP) Forum comes as little surprise and does not really represent a strong endorsement of UPnP or a faltering commitment to Sun's competing Jini protocol.
The presence of PCs and other Windows-based devices in many homes will give Microsoft's UPnP a distinct advantage. Because of the variety of networks within the home, however, Gartner believes several autodiscovery protocols--the way devices announces themselves to a netowrk--will populate the home networking market, at least for a few years.
Homes already have a variety of networks for telephones, power, security, television and other services. Personal information management devices, handheld computers and Web-capable telephones will be added.
Different autodiscovery protocols have different strengths. UPnP has ties to the Microsoft operating system. Sun envisions Jini as a device-independent technology. Home Audio/Video Interoperability (HAVi) is used for interconnecting and controlling audio/visual electronics and appliances in home networks.
The HomePlug Alliance is one organization that will develop hardware architectures that support multiple autodiscovery protocols. Although far from likely, the ideal situation would be to have Microsoft, Sun and Sony, a main sponsor of HAVi, publicly announce their intention to promote true interoperability.
A lack of coordination among companies and industry groups will likely persist, as will many unresolved concerns facing application providers who seek to promote device interoperability and user-friendly interfaces.
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