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Your future lies at home

Microsoft looks to be digital landlord of the future

The digital home is on the horizon, and Microsoft is on the hunt for some new real estate.

Speaking from the software maker's California campus on Monday, Microsoft vice president Mike Toutonghi laid out the company's latest efforts to develop software and services for home users, now part of a new business unit at Microsoft called the eHome division.

Officially formed in February this year, Microsoft's eHome division is at the fore of the company's efforts to build a Windows-focused home network that enables average consumers to use a PC for consuming entertainment and communicating with voice, video and text over the internet — what Toutonghi referred to as "applying the PC's power to the home".

About nine years after it first started researching new computing technologies aimed at home users, Microsoft now says the statistics are finally beginning to reveal a consumer market that is capable of adopting new technologies in the home.

The combination of high-speed internet and home networks lays the foundation for Microsoft's vision for the future of consumer computing.

A number of competing hardware and software makers already offer the kinds of products and services that Microsoft outlined in its eHome. Yahoo unveiled yesterday an addition to its free email that means subscribers can send video messages as well as text. Several hardware makers have turned the television into an outlet for home computing through video game consoles and set-top boxes.

However, Toutonghi says there is still no simple way to make all these devices and services work with each other. "The very early adopters can take a lot of products that are out there and make an environment like this," he said. "But for the broader market... the kinds of experiences people want are still somewhat out of reach."

But Microsoft admitted that its home management services won't be available for another few years. "Yes we've talked about it; everyone has talked about it," he said. "We haven't really had the resources to do this yet... in part because the technology wasn't there or it was too expensive."

In fact the eHome division has yet to make any hard product announcements, and doesn't expect to for at least a year, Toutonghi said. "We very much consider this a long-term initiative," he said.


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