Microsoft and 3Com Team Up to Simplify Home Networks

REDMOND, Wash., March 12, 1999 — Rock-bottom PC prices are helping to create a tremendous number of multiple-computer households. The proliferation of home PCs is a boon that allows parents to manage their finances or catch up on after-hours work while the kids do their homework or play games. But some households are surprised to find that extra PCs haven’t brought all the peace they had hoped for.

More than one PC does mean less contention over who gets to use the computer, but now family members may find themselves wrangling over other matters, such as who gets to use the Internet account, the CD-ROM drive or the PC with the printer attached.

Microsoft and 3Com have joined forces to restore domestic harmony, with a series of connection kits that make it easy to make the most of a multiple-PC household. The kits can quickly link every Windows 9x PC in the home, without installing any special wiring. Once connected, PCs can share files and peripherals such as disk drives and printers. They can be used for multi-player games. Perhaps best of all, they can even share an Internet connection so that several family members can surf the Web independently, using a single modem or high-speed connection.

Each kit consists of a pair of hardware adapters and a software package that live up to the reputations both Microsoft and 3Com have developed for making sophisticated technology easy to use. Hardware installation is made easy by clear, illustrated instructions, and a Setup Wizard makes it a pleasure to load the software on each Windows 9x PC in the house. A few quick clicks and you’ll be trading files, sharing a Net connection, or battling in the latest networked multi-player game.

“We know families will love the ability to share Internet connections, play network games, and share hardware, but once their PCs are connected, we believe they’ll find lots of benefits they didn’t expect, said Rick Thompson, vice president of Microsoft’s hardware group. “Older PCs, for instance, can relieve disk-space crowding by ‘borrowing’ space on a connected PC’s drive. And ‘disk confusion’ will diminish, as family members no longer need the ‘sneakernet’ method of transferring files on floppy disks or ZIP cartridges to be printed or faxed.”

“Even more exciting are the possibilities that connected home PCs provide for cool new software, said Roy Johnson, vice president of 3Com’s home networking business unit. “We look forward to a new generation of home-productivity and entertainment programs that take advantage of linked PCs in the home. Just a few of the exciting possibilities include a family schedule calendar that can be shared across multiple PCs, applications for adjusting appliances and climate-control systems.”

A Full Line of Kits

Microsoft and 3Com plan a series of kits based on a variety of connection technologies, each suited to different budgets and speed requirements. The first three kits are scheduled to be available from PC vendors this summer and to reach retail stores later in the year. Others will be rolled out starting early next year, along with add-on kits that will allow single PCs to be added to existing home networks.

The hardware in two of the first three kits will consist of PCI add-in cards, which anyone with a screwdriver can install easily inside a PC. The third kit doesn’t even require a screwdriver. It simply plugs into the Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports that are standard on late-model PCs. It’s as easy as plugging in a toaster.

One PCI card option features technology that transmits data over the phone wiring already installed inside the home. Just plug one end of a standard universal phone cable into each PCI card, and the other end into the phone jack in any room of the house. This creates an instant connection that’s as speedy as the Ethernet link in most offices. This technology conforms to the new PNA (Phoneline Networking Association) standard, which means it’s compatible with other standards-based products, and it allows interference-free PC data exchanges even when phone calls or faxes are in progress.

The other PCI kit and the USB kit create standard Ethernet connections on each PC, just like those used in corporations everywhere. They use commonly available twisted-pair cabling (also known as Category 5 cabling) to connect, and are compatible with network-ready printers and other Ethernet-equipped devices found in many offices.

One key to the simplicity of the Microsoft/3Com kits is the easy-to-configure networking software. Its Setup Wizard makes it simple to connect multiple PCs: Just specify which files or folders you want to share (and which to keep private) on the first computer, and then install the software on each of the other PCs in turn. Also included in each kit will be software to update Windows 98 to enable Internet Connection Sharing.

The simplicity of the Microsoft/3Com home connection kits means many multiple-PC families will soon be getting even more out of their computers. They’ll be taking greater advantage of the Internet, wasting less time vying for access to printers and other hardware. Best of all, they’ll be battling less – except during their favorite network games. Making peace was never easier.

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