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The pharaoh of home networking?

Rockwell becomes the second major company this week to sign a deal with Tut Systems, which can turn phone lines into a home network.

Rockwell Semiconductor has announced that it will include Tut Systems' technology in its upcoming home networking products, the second high profile deal in as many days for the company.

Tut's HomeRun technology enables residential customers to link home computing devices together into a network using ordinary copper phone lines without disturbing ordinary phone service. The whole in-house network can then be tied to the Internet. Tut's technology is capable of delivering up to 1 mbps over existing phone lines in the home. No new wires or connections are required.

"What's really driving this is the number of multi-PC homes," said Jim Muth, product line manager of home networking at Rockwell. "There are 25 million homes with more that one PC in North America." That's going to grow at rate of 5 million a year, he said.

Right now, Tut is positioning itself to becoming a pharaoh in this development. Compaq Computers signed a deal with Tut on Monday. Compaq also owns a stake in the company, along with AT&T Ventures, Itochu International and Microsoft.

Rockwell, maker of chipsets, imaging devices, and wireless communications products, will marry the two companies' technologies onto a single chipset which will be bundled into PCs or used in single-card retail products. A home-LAN-only card will initially cost "less that $100," Muth said.

Compaq will incorporate the HomeRun technology into future Compaq products and will engage in joint marketing to encourage other companies to develop HomeRun-compatible products.

"As the number of homes with multiple PCs, printers and other digital information appliances continues to grow, consumers will be eager to link these devices quickly and inexpensively," said Kurt Losert, vice president of Compaq's Internet services unit.

"[HomeRun] provides a way to create this sort of home network--and to share high-speed Internet connections such as cable modem or ADSL services--simply by plugging devices into any phone jack," Losert said.

Tut and Compaq said they have worked closely for the past six months to ensure that the HomeRun system will work with a version of a technology for delivering high-speed data to residences over public phone networks.

Tut, Rockwell, and Compaq, along with other leading data networking, semiconductor, telephone and computer companies, are founding members of the recently established Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA).

The industry group aims to deliver easy-to-use, affordable, high-speed consumer networking solutions over existing telephone wires, with the first systems to be based on Tut technology.

Reuters contributed to this report.