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IBM touts Home Director

It's the first effort of its kind by a major technology company to deliver a complete home network controlled from a PC.

IBM yesterday introduced its Home Director networking system, the latest in the company's efforts to increase its visibility as a provider of cutting-edge home technology.

On Wednesday, Big Blue announced it was shipping consumer PCs enabled with speech recognition software and developing wearable PCs. Additionally, the PC maker has cut prices on flat-panel displays with its high-end consumer systems, bringing the fancy displays into the consumer price range for the first time.

IBM Home Director Professional
Home Network Controller operates:

Home PCs, Internet access, printers and other peripherals, home appliances, lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and security systems.

Home Network Connection Center integrates:

Data, voice, fax, and video wiring

Source: IBM

With the Home Director announcement, IBM is going one step further in bringing cutting-edge technology to consumers, making technology part of the home itself.

"This digital infrastructure that will be built into every home includes the home network connection center, and all the appropriate wiring infrastructure in every house," said Mark Schmidt, director of marketing and sales for IBM's home networking group.

IBM Home Director gives home owners access to high-speed Internet connections, home entertainment devices, phones, video feeds for security purposes, as well as the ability to control home appliances from a centrally located console.

"What IBM is doing is bringing awareness to what was an obscure new development in home building," said Steve Raschke director of marketing for Digital Interiors, a San Jose, Californa-based firm that installs IBM's Home Director. IBM also announced today its partnerships with home networking integration and construction firms in nine states, including California, Texas, and Oklahoma.

"This is an important wave of the future, the way homes are going to be wired," Raschke said, adding that home networking systems are gaining in popularity in mid-range homes. "It started as a 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' kind of thing," Raschke said. "What we've done is figure out how to make the network affordable."

The cost of installation ranges from $750 to $1,500, Raschke said, when installed in new homes. Once installed, the home owner pays standard Internet, cable, and telephone service fees.

The system is powered by an MMX class IBM processor, Schmidt said, and runs on a Windows-based operating system. "It uses the Home Director software, which we view to be the first operating system for the home," Schmidt said. "It only uses about 25 percent of the dedicated processor, so there is a great capacity to upgrade."

Later on, IBM will tie its branded version of Palm Computing's PalmPilot device to the system, allowing users to control the Home Director system remotely.

"Eventually we will turn WorkPad (IBM's branded PalmPilot device) into a remote Home Director product," Schmidt said.