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PC deals to help push home networking

In a development that could help jumpstart the nascent industry, consumers will soon be able to have a variety of home networking technologies built into new PCs to connect computers and other peripherals.

In a development that could help jumpstart the nascent industry, consumers will soon be able to have a variety of home networking technologies built into new PCs to connect computers and other peripherals.

Compaq and IBM tomorrow will detail plans to offer wireless networking technology with their personal computers in early 2000. Additionally, Dell plans to soon offer 3Com and Microsoft's new high-speed networking products.

The networking equipment provider and software giant together have built a home networking kit that allows users to connect PCs together by plugging them into telephone jacks.

Analysts say such bundling deals are crucial for the success of the emerging home networking market, and they expect more PC and modem makers to include networking technology in future products. As a result, a larger number of consumers will be able to take advantage of the new home networking technology, and link multiple computers and related devices at home.

"The highest number of networking kits shipped will be bundled ones," said analyst Mike Wolf, of market researcher Cahners In-Stat Group. "When you're configuring a new PC online, and an additional $50 will get you home networking, it's more of an impulse buy."

Yankee Group analyst Karuna Uppal agreed, saying that many consumers might not seek out networking technology, but if it is already included in machines, they would be more apt to try it.

"Not many people will wake up and say, 'I need to drive to CompUSA because I need a home networking kit,'" she said.

Studies show home networking will explode in the next few years as consumers warm to the idea of a networked home. Early networking kits--by Intel, Diamond Multimedia, Proxim, and others--allowed users to share Internet access and play computer games, but at slower speeds than current technology.

Industry observers say that in the future--perhaps only five to ten years away--a home networking user could turn on air conditioning through the TV or watch a security camera feed of their home over a Web browser.

Tomorrow's announcements aren't the first bundling deals between home networking firms and hardware companies. Previously, Apple bundled Lucent Technologies' wireless networking product in its iBook computer, while Compaq and IBM added early phoneline technology in their PCs.

The 3Com- Microsoft alliance will announce tomorrow plans to sell a 10 megabits per second (mbps) phoneline kit for $149.99 in early November at CompUSA, Best Buy, and other retail outlets.

3Com executives said Dell is expected to sell the kit later this month as an add-on to its Dimension line of consumer PCs. 3Com executives also said more bundling deals with PC makers are in the works.

Intel and other companies plan to introduce their 10 mbps phoneline products by the end of November. The 10 mbps technology is compatible with first-generation phoneline products, capable of 1 mbps speeds.

Reaching 10 mbps is important, analysts say, because its sufficient bandwidth to handle video downloads, such as video for DVD players.

Separately, Motorola plans to package wireless networking technology into its cable modems by early 2000, while Cayman Systems will do the same for its digital subscriber line (DSL) modems. The technology will allow a notebook user to easily log onto the Net through wireless connections anywhere in a home.

A wireless consortium, called the HomeRF, will unveil tomorrow a list of companies that plan to offer its wireless home networking technology in early 2000, including IBM, Compaq, Motorola, and Cayman.

Two other firms--Intel and Proxim--said they plan to offer wireless networking technology that runs at speeds of 1.6 mbps. The technology will include PC cards and kits that connect to USB ports. Pricing has not been announced.

3Com, Apple, Lucent, and others support a competing wireless standard that reaches 11 mbps. 3Com plans to offer its wireless product in the second quarter of 2000.