SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft has joined Qualcomm and other technology companies in a bid to establish standard ways for household devices such as light bulbs and thermostats to talk to each other.
The Qualcomm-backed AllSeen Alliance is among a growing number of efforts for companies working alone or in groups to promote protocols for how smart devices should work together in a trend increasingly referred to as the Internet of Things.
Microsoft (MSFT) on Tuesday joined 50 other members in the AllSeen Alliance, including major consumer electronics players Panasonic, LG Electronics and Sharp, the group said.
But chipmakers that compete with Qualcomm (QCOM) plan to launch a rival standards consortium as early as next week, an industry source who was familiar with the plans but not authorized to discuss them, also told Reuters.
Battle lines are being drawn as manufacturers roll out growing numbers of Internet-connected burglar alarms, televisions and baby monitors. But like the early days of video cassette recorders, many of the smart home products being launched are incompatible with each other.
Qualcomm and other tech companies believe the quick establishment of standards across home-connected gadgets, cars and wearable computing devices will accelerate the introduction of new devices by manufacturers.
Making it easy for software developers to design apps that let household devices work together in useful ways, like making living room LED light bulbs flash red when food is burning on the stove, may also stir more interest from consumers who have yet to become excited by smart products currently on offer, the companies hope.
To that end, Qualcomm led the development of a connection standard called AllJoyn and made it free for other companies to use in their products.
But, like the rivalry between Betamax and VHS video formats over three decades ago, Silicon Valley is far from agreement on what standards should rule.
Apple (AAPL), known for strictly controlling how other companies' products interact with its own, in June announced plans for HomeKit, which will integrate control of devices like garage door openers, lights and thermostats.
Last week, Google (GOOG) said it partnered with Mercedes-Benz, Whirlpool (WHR) and light bulb maker LIFX to integrate their products with Google's Nest thermostats and smoke detectors.
"All these things need a standard. Nobody wants to buy a TV and have to make sure their speakers are compliant," said Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon. "But we're in an experimentation phase with the Internet of Things. It's early days and nobody knows what it's eventually going to look like."
Asked whether Intel (INTC) would join Qualcomm's alliance, an Intel spokeswoman said in an email, "There are multiple forums driving different approaches to solve the challenge of IoT connectivity. Currently, we don't see one single effort that addresses all the necessary requirements."
8 Ways Watching Too Much TV Is Costing You Thousands
Microsoft Backs Qualcomm in Showdown over Connected Home
Cable and satellite TV can run you a pretty penny -- especially if you fall prey to companies' cleverly crafted package deals. You really adore the programming on Channel XYZ, but you can only get it if you upgrade to the higher-tier package, which is an extra $20 a month and has dozens of channels you never look at. Found another provider who offers a better deal? Get ready to be socked with early termination fees by your current provider -- and for your new provider's fantastic deal to run out once you're not a new customer anymore.
The average American watches five hours of TV a day -- 1,825 hours a year. Think of all the other things you could be doing with that time to earn extra money. You could get a second job, start your own business, go back to school, or improve your skill set so you can qualify for a higher-paying job.
Excessive TV watching has been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression and even a shorter lifespan. And the cost of treating a long-term health issue is rarely cheap -- in terms of money or happiness.
Kids aren't the only ones susceptible to the "I want it!" syndrome caused by too much TV advertising. No matter how savvy and impenetrable to marketing you think you are, companies invest millions of dollars in television ads for a reason -- because they work. Being pelted with tempting commercials for products and services takes its toll on your money mindset. It's easy to fall into the consumer trap when you're constantly being shown shiny new things guaranteed to make your life better.
Do you love watching the glamorous lifestyles on "Real Housewives"? Drool over the spacious properties on "House Hunters?" TV is a form of voyeurism that allows us to peek into the lifestyles of those richer and more famous -- and it can leave us dissatisfied with what we have because we get so used to seeing those who have more. This can result in us making purchases we can't really afford because we're trying to keep up with those televised Joneses.
In a similar vein, TV can make us feel dissatisfied with our appearance. Compared to the gorgeous, flawless people we see on shows and commercials, it's easy to find 101 ways our looks don't add up. Seeing nothing but an idealized standard of beauty on screen can drive us to spend tons to try to make our own appearances match, from jumping on the latest fashion bandwagon, buying whatever cream is the new hot development, or even springing for surgery to physically remake ourselves.
Snacking and TV watching often go hand in hand, and when your attention is focused on a show, it can be easy to down a whole bag of chips before you realize what you're doing. Combine that with the fact that TV watching is a sedentary activity, and you've got the makings for a much bigger cost than just that bag of chips. (See No. 3.)
While TV engages our attention, it doesn't engage our brains, at least not the way that reading, continuing education and real-life problem-solving does. It's a largely passive form of entertainment that can leave us feeling lazy, sluggish and unfocused. And that lack of mental energy can take a toll when it comes to things like our job performance, our drive to start that new business, or our willingness to get out and network our way to our next great job.