San Mateo County Times

Oracle, others to link appliances via Web
Tuesday, March 02, 1999

By Liz Garone

REDWOOD CITY -- Consumers soon will be able to control everything from their television and VCR to the dishwasher and cell phone through the use of a Web browser.

Silicon Valley heavyweights Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems are among 15 technology companies which announced Monday that they will develop a standard allowing consumers to network their home appliances. It will be called "Open Service Gateway," or "OSG," and will be based on Sun Microsystems' Java programming language.

"The Internet is going to be the conductivity to the outside world," said Jacob Christfort, Oracle's director of mobile and embedded products.

For those who remember to set the VCR only after leaving home and after arriving at the office, the OSG could offer an easy solution, according to Christfort.

With the new system, a user should be able to log on to a computer at work, open a Web browser, call up a settings page, and remotely set the VCR to record the show. If the dishwasher malfunctions while no one is home, the system could be set to notify a designated repair company, which could then send someone to fix the problem.

"Internet service will be as ubiquitous as the power in your home, and just as pervasive," said Jonathan Schwartz, director of enterprise products at Sun Microsystems.

Neil Shepherd, senior products marketing manager at Oracle, would not give a specific date as to when consumers can expect the new technology in their homes. He did say, however, that a number of appliance manufacturers will be implementing the new standards into their new models in the coming months.

Company officials said the new technology doesn't require the use or knowledge of Microsoft's Windows-based operating system.

Another home-based networking technology, AtTV, was unveiled Monday and also seeks to go head-to-head with Microsoft.

Redwood City-based Network Computer, Inc. and Denver-based US West are beginning to test-market the new service.

Like Microsoft's WebTV, subscribers will receive a networked box to place on top of their TV sets. They will then be able to control the TV, telephone and Internet through use of a remote control and a speaker phone -- never once having to leave the couch if the phone rings.

If users choose to pick up the call, the television will go mute and the speaker phone will kick in, according to Charlie Tritschler, NCI's vice president of marketing.

"The system will be easy to use and have none of the frustration of a PC," he said.

Tritschler said it was coincidental both announcements came on Monday.

The 15 member companies of the OSG alliance include Alcatel, Cable & Wireless, Electricite de France, Enron Communications, Ericsson, IBM, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, NCI, Nortel Networks, Oracle, Philips Electronics, Sun Microsystems, Sybase, and Toshiba.

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