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December 29, 1999

Cisco Backs Microsoft on Home Networking

By CBR Staff Writer

Cisco Systems Inc has added its weight to the Microsoft-backed Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) Forum, in a bid to boost the Redmond firm’s and its own efforts in the home networking market. Cisco joined the Universal Plug and Play group Tuesday, stating that enabling devices to talk to each other over a home network is an important growth area for Cisco’s business in 2000.

UPnP is similar in concept to Sun Microsystems’ Jini specification, which describes how different digital devices can be automatically configured to, and accessed via a network with minimal user intervention. However, Sun recently criticized UPnP for not being as open as Microsoft claims.

Sun said that companies joining the forum have to hand any work done on the specification over to the chairman of the group, Microsoft. Any IP [intellectual property] you may have you basically have to assign to Microsoft, the spokesperson said. Microsoft says that UPnP is an open specification based on standard web and internet protocols, namely XML.

Sun claims the UPnP specification is pretty low level stating that UPnP is basically configured to turn devices in a network on and off, change channels on TVs and control networked printers. He said that whereas Jini could transfer information between separate devices in a network, theoretically, it could run on top of UPnP.

Cisco is committed to working with others to create open standards for emerging markets such as Internet appliances in the home, said Don Listwin, Cisco executive VP. He did not rule out a tie-up with Sun, if the market warrants it. As ever, the winner will be the last technology standing.

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