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Inari invention uses powerlines

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When people think of home networking and high-speed data transmission, they usually do not think of their wall outlets and AC electrical wiring.

Tod Frohnen, president and chief executive officer of Draper-based Inari, thinks they should. He's staking his future on the belief that transmission over powerlines will fly.

During the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, Inari announced it has a complete line of silicon to support powerline networking at 2, 4 and 12 MB. The company plans to work with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to integrate it into products for the consumer market at a "price point that will absolutely promote home networking opportunities," Frohnen said.

"The one thing that has stalled out home networking is the cost associated with networking. With our new product offering, there's an opportunity to put connectivity in at a price point that's appealing to the end consumer," he said.

Consumers, he said, don't want to know how the technology works.

They just want to be sure it does work, without a lot of fuss or expense.

Inari is working closely with the Consumer Electronics Association to promote a standard for powerline technology.

"We all endorse an orderly market," Frohnen said.

Inari also has launched a Power Developer Program to help OEMs deliver powerline-enabled products to market. It plans to give its developers early release of Inari development tools and products, as well as OEM customers access to more support and reference designs based on its Powerline silicon.

The ultimate goal is lots of devices that are interoperable, using Inari technology.

The company scored a coup recently when Mitsubishi not only selected Inari for its powerline technology in the future, but also signed on to "take a good piece" of the company's latest round of venture capital fund raising, Frohnen said.

Inari is a Novell spinoff. When Frohnen joined the company in 1998, it was "fairly apparent" to them that it would not be possible to develop a market by themselves for powerline home networking.

Instead, the company decided to become a technology provider to major OEMs through the world, to provide the silicon to do connectivity work, as well as some of the applications.

The company has 43 employees, including a few in sales offices in California and Germany. It's just beginning to roll out representatives in Asia, as well.

And recent economic squalls haven't hurt the privately held Inari. Frohnen predicts 2002 will be a "very, very good year in home networking, especially in the powerline area."

E-mail: lois@desnews.com