SAN FRANCISCO (08/15/2000) - What do most home network users want to make them feel more secure about accessing the Internet? According to research by chip maker Intel Corp., the top priorities for consumers are protection from hacker attacks and a means to safeguard their children from chancing upon unsavory content on the Net.
With those concerns in mind, Intel Wednesday will announce it's shipping a new version of its AnyPoint Connectivity Software Suite bundled with all of its AnyPoint Home Network product offerings. The new release of the suite will feature easy-to-implement firewall protection and parental control, according to Barry Bonder, product line manager, home networking operation at Intel's network communications group, based in Hillsboro, Oregon.
Intel's AnyPoint Home Network family of products -- a mix of hardware, cables and network configuration software -- allows users in homes with more than one PC to network the machines together wirelessly or via a phoneline so that the PCs can all use a single Net connection at the same time. Such connectivity not only facilitates Net access but also allows file and printer sharing along with multiplayer gaming among different computer users in the same household, Bonder said.
To add firewall protection to the new version of the AnyPoint Connectivity Software Suite, Intel "combined the simplicity of AnyPoint with BlackIce" from Network Ice Corp., Bonder said. In March of this year, Intel made an undisclosed equity investment in San Mateo, California-based security software vendor Network Ice.
All the AnyPoint software suite user will see of the software is a list of four options they can turn and off whenever they like running, from "paranoid" requiring full firewall imposition to "just trusting" not requiring any firewall, Bonder said. He pointed out that in order to carry out some Net applications such as multiplayer gaming or Internet telephony, users will have to lower their level of firewall protection.
Turning to parental control, the core ingredient of the capability in the AnyPoint Connectivity Software Suite is technology from Portland, Oregon-based RuleSpace Inc. which offers a "double layer" of protection, according to Bonder.
As well as automatic filtering protection which will recognize "bad" Web sites, the software also includes a neural network so it can pick up patterns in Web sites and learn to distinguish between them. For example, it will recognize the difference between a Web site about chicken breasts vs. one about human breasts, Bonder said. Objectionable Web sites include violent sites, those advocating hatred, those containing pornographic materials as well as those providing information on how to create bombs, he added.
Users can also limit their childrens' Net access to a few Web sites of their choice -- a facility that may also come in handy in small businesses who operate a network of only five or six computers, Bonder said.
The suite will also come with some more light-hearted features such as the AnyPoint Intercom to allow users on different PCs in a home to talk directly to each other, which could be of particular use in multiplayer games, Bonder said.
Another feature is a jukebox so users can share their digital music across their networked PCs or listen to different music on different machines using the same Net connection. Intel is also bundling into the suite a head-to-head remote control car racer multiplayer game, he added.
Existing AnyPoint software users can upgrade to the new connectivity suite free of charge from Wednesday by going to http://www.intel.com/anypoint.
Currently, Intel is only offering its AnyPoint family of products in the U.S. and Canada since these two countries feature the most homes with access to two or more PCs. Bonder cited analyst estimates that in the U.S. today there are 20 million homes containing more than one PC. "It's a relatively new concept," he said.
Intel does have plans to make AnyPoint available outside of North America, since countries such as Japan, France, Germany and the U.K. already have sufficient numbers of households with more than one PC to warrant an interest in the vendor's home networking offerings, Bonder said. He believes that the wireless versions of AnyPoint will be more attractive to users abroad, given that in some countries, the U.K., for instance, the average home only contains two phone jacks. Also the fact that the wireless products utilize an "unlicensed (frequency) band which is in use in most of the world" should add to their appeal, Bonder said.
At present, Intel's phoneline AnyPoint products will permit a maximum connectivity speed of 10M bps (bits per second), while the company's newer wireless offerings, introduced in April of this year, top out at 1.6M bps. The vendor's phoneline products use the HomePNA (phone network alliance) standard, while the wireless products use the HomeRF (radio frequency) standard.
Within the next few weeks, Intel expects that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will approve changes in the HomeRF standard that will enable the chip maker to offer 10M-bps connectivity speeds wirelessly instead of the current 1.6M-bps level, Bonder said. The cost of the 10M-bps AnyPoint products will be "very close" to that of the 1.6M-bps products, he added.
Bonder wouldn't be drawn on how many AnyPoint phoneline and wireless Intel has sold to date, only saying that sales of the products are "neck and neck." He cited retail research from sales analysis firm PC Data Inc. which gives Intel around a 35 percent share of the U.S. home networking market. "The market is taking off as we expected it to -- very slowly since it's a new idea," Bonder said. "We predicted that people who do try it will tell 10 friends."
With a number of home networking standards jostling for market attention and acceptance, Bonder believes that Intel has picked the right ones in HomePNA and HomeRF. The chip giant does expects to support wireless LAN (local area network) standard 802.11 in its business networking products due out in six to nine months time, he added. "There are no rules, we can back any technology," Bonder said.
AnyPoint today concentrates on connecting PCs together but as the concept of home networking takes off, Intel will formally offer connections to all manner of Net-enabled household devices, Bonder said. The company expects that keyboardless Net pad devices will be the second most popular home Net access medium after PCs.
Intel, based in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-987-8080 or via the Internet at http://www.intel.com/.