Japan group formed for Net-enabled electronic goods

Fourteen Japanese consumer electronics and telecommunication companies plan to work together to hammer out networking specifications for consumer electronics devices that can access the Internet, they said Tuesday.

The companies will form the Ubiquitous Open Platform Forum (UOPF) to work on an open, common standard that is intended to make it easier to set up consumer electronics devices for use on a network, to allow for online billing and to enable real-time communications between such devices on a network, the group said in a statement. The first specification is expected in the coming few months and products based on UOPF standards are expected to start appearing on store shelves in the second half of this year.

Members of the group include many of the biggest names in Japanese consumer electronics and telecommunication: Hitachi Ltd., KDDI Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., Matsushita Electric Works Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., NEC Corp., Nifty Corp., NTT Communications Corp., Pioneer Corp., Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp., Sony Corp., Sony Communication Network Corp. and Toshiba Corp. The members are also planning to launch worldwide marketing of Internet-enabled appliances and an IPv6 implementation of the technology.

Consumer electronics devices that can access the Internet have been slowly appearing in Japan. Several hard-disk drive based digital video recorders and a number of digital televisions come with Ethernet sockets and can be hooked up to a broadband connection. The most common use for such a connection at present is the downloading of firmware updates, although some devices offer more functionality.

For example, Sharp on Tuesday launched a digital video recorder that can stream recorded programs across the Internet to software clients on notebook computers or its Zaurus personal digital assistant (PDA ). Also, Toshiba will offer a software update next week for a line of digital televisions that will allow users to browse the Internet on the television screen, using the remote control.

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