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Networking The Wired Home

3Com and Microsoft are teaming up to develop co-branded home networking products, the companies said Thursday.

The moves pave the way for mainstream adoption of home networking products aimed at making it easier for consumers to connect personal computers to the Internet.

3Com (COMS) and Microsoft (MSFT) are eyeing Ethernet and home phone line networking kits, with radio frequency and power-line carrier kits to follow.

Shares of Microsoft dipped 1 to 160 3/8 on Thursday morning. 3Com gained 1 5/8 to 26 1/4.

The first networking products are scheduled to be released to product makers this summer, with retail kits scheduled to be available this fall.

They will be compatible with new features of the Microsoft Windows 98 operating system, such as Internet Connection Sharing.

"With a single connection to the Internet, two or more family members can simultaneously surf the Web," the companies said in a statement. "The ability to share applications and files between connected PCs in the home helps lay the foundation for a new generation of lifestyle applications."

Shared family scheduling, family messaging, distance learning and entertainment such as multiplayer gaming and high-quality, whole-house audio on demand could result from the technology.

The product line will offer choices for traditional wired and "no-new-wires" connectivity, including phone-line, wireless and power-line options.

3Com and Microsoft's home phone-line networking solutions will be compatible with HomePNA standards and will provide 10Mbps performance, rivaling high-speed, hard-wired networks.

For higher performance, the product line will also include 10/100 Ethernet solutions based on 3Com's industry-leading chipsets. Additional networking kits will follow, including high-speed radio frequency and power-line carrier solutions.

"Given the trend toward multiple PCs in homes and the growth of broadband Internet access, we anticipate tremendous growth in the home networking arena this year," said Rick Thompson, vice president of the hardware group at Microsoft. "The products we are building with 3Com let consumers get the most out of their PCs with little effort or technical savvy required."

Written By Steve Gelsi, CBS MarketWatch