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Top-tier PC vendor to back USR

U.S. Robotics has more support for its 56-kbps modem technology as Packard Bell-NEC says it will ship systems with its modems.

Packard Bell-NEC, one of the largest consumer PC vendors in the United States, is throwing its weight behind U.S. Robotics' (USRX) 56-kbps modem technology.

Packard Bell will ship new systems with 56-kbps modems using U.S. Robotics' x2 technology starting in the second quarter of this year. Both Packard Bell and NEC branded systems will get the modems, which use chipsets from Texas Instruments.

The announcement is the latest in a series of marketing moves that U.S. Robotics hopes will help create a de facto standard for its 56-kbps technology. The trick will be to gain the support of numerous Internet service providers and computer manufacturers.

In the absence of an established communications standard that is still in the works, 56-kbps modems that rely on x2 technology and modems using K56flex technology from Rockwell Semiconductor and Lucent can't exchange data. This means that initially x2 modem users will only be able to hook up to those ISPs that also use technology from U.S. Robotics. By bundling x2 modems in its PCs, Packard Bell is throwing thousands of users into the x2 camp.

While the majority of modem vendors are supporting Rockwell's standard, U.S. Robotics has already lined up the support of the nation's largest online service provider, America Online, among others. It has also persuaded Dell and notebook manufacturer Hitachi to use its modems.