Cos. Push Home Internet Products

Wednesday, October 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Promoting the potentially lucrative market for connected homes, a group of major retailers and manufacturers are launching a campaign to boost consumer acceptance of Internet-enabled products.

The Internet Home Alliance will work together to standardize systems and try to win converts to the new technologies, the 12 founding and two associate member companies announced Tuesday.

``Consumers will see what these products can do, and think about them in the context of how they can work in your own home,'' said Kristine Stewart, a spokeswoman for Cisco Systems Inc..

3Com Corp., Best Buy, Cisco Systems, CompUSA, General Motors Corp., Honeywell, Invensys, Motorola Inc., New Power Co., Matsushita Electric Co., the parent of Panasonic, Sears, Roebuck & Co., and Sun Microsystems contributed $2.5 million each to the undertaking. Reliant Energy and Texas Instruments added $500,000 each as associate members. The group said it was open to other partners.

The new group is one of several to announce collaborative efforts in recent months as companies scramble to capture a share of a market for Internet consumer appliances that analysts say will top $8 billion by 2002.

The Commerce Department just this week announced 51 percent of American households now have computers, while 41.5 percent have Internet connections. The next step, device manufacturers and retailers say, is to connect Internet-enabled products so that consumers might, for instance, download a recipe from a cooking television show directly to their oven.

Or be able to make home security, heating and cooling system accessible remotely via handheld computers.

Some analysts are skeptical, though, of the consumer appeal of home networks. A recent survey by Forrester Research Inc. showed that while 3.5 percent of households already have a network that links computers, only another 6 percent want one.

Executives participating in the alliance announcement suggested the statistic will rise with the education campaign, which is expected to kick off in the first half of next year.