A group of 17 leading technology companies have joined forces to create the Digital Home Working Group (www.dhwg.org), an organisation devoted to creating a set of open standards to allow interoperability between PCs, consumer electronics and mobile devices in the home.

Companies including Microsoft, Intel, IBM, HP, Sony Panasonic, Philips, Sharp and Samsung are all backing the initiative, and Gartner analyst Van Baker, believes that their support "adds significant momentum and credibility to this undertaking".

The aim is to develop a system of standards that will allow all electronic devices in the home to operate together smoothly. The group is building on existing standards of interoperability as well as providing compliance and certification for new devices to encourage the growth of the market for digital home devices.

By following the group's technical guidelines companies will be able to build digital home products such as PCs, set-top boxes, printers, stereos, PDAs, DVD players, mobile phones and digital projectors that can share content either with or without wires.

Demand for these devices has grown immensely since the advent of broadband and with the popularity of digital music, photography and video, but difficulties in developing products that work well together has stifled market growth. The DHWG hopes to remove this barrier, making it simpler for companies to come up with easy-to-use products that operate efficiently with other devices.

"The efforts of the Digital Home Working Group are intended — and certainly have the potential — to accelerate consumer acceptance and enjoyment of digital media," explains Baker.

Draft guidelines are expected in the third quarter of this year, with final rules due to be published in the fourth quarter. Interoperability and testing certification will begin in the first half of 2004, and the first products based on the framework are expected to ship a few months after that.