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Home Networking’s Epic Failure.

Imagine my surprise, this morning, when Sean Buckley’s piece titled Untangling the home network wiring debate landed in my inbox.  Ten years ago, during my tenure as the Director of Home Networks Marketing at Microsoft, the consumer electronics, computer and telecom industries were arguing about what the standard for home networks should be – wireless, powerline, phoneline, or coax.  According to Buckley, here we are ten years later, and the argument is still continuing and companies are still taking sides – witness the fact that Bell Canada recently joined the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA), an organization that was long in the tooth a decade ago. The only visible difference between then and now is that speeds have increased, and new proposed standards have emerged.  The newest, G.hn, promises a single chipset that can transmit data over any media – powerline, phoneline, coax, or whatever.  Perhaps they should have called it G.hg, where hg stands for “holy grail”.

A decade ago the industry talked about networked media devices (televisions, music systems and so on), home appliances (in the kitchen and elsewhere), control and lighting systems, data networks, and security systems.  At Microsoft we invented Universal Plug and Play to enable devices to quickly and simply discover each other and connect across that network, and we put up million dollar “home of the future” showcases on campus to show what that world might be like. We showed whimsical devices like barbecues that could signal you when the food was cooked, and more practical systems that unified control of media systems, televisions and computers on a single living room display. All in all, it was pretty heady stuff.  Move over George Jetson, the future is here now!

Apparently all of that vision, however, is stuck behind the wrangling over standards.  A decade later, the industry still can’t decide which wire is the chosen wire to carry all of this data around your home. With rare expections, the result has been that home networks have been for connecting computers to broadband service providers, and not much else.  No networked TV’s, media players, washing machines, or anything else.

Boo, hiss!  As my kids might say epic fail, dudes, EPIC FAIL.

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