Whirlpool Taps Nokia for Wireless Home Appliances

STOCKHOLM (07/06/2000) - U.S.-based home appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. and Finnish mobile phone vendor Nokia Corp. have signed a letter of intent to cooperate in the development of Internet-enabled, networked home products, the companies announced Thursday.

Whirlpool and Nokia plan to jointly evaluate possibilities for delivering innovative products and services to the home appliance market, the companies said in a joint statement.

Whirlpool has already showed off prototypes of Internet-enabled home appliances, including a refrigerator and an oven, but the company has yet to decide when such products will be ready for commercial launch, said Sarah Brady, a spokeswoman at Whirlpool's European headquarters in Comerio, Italy.

The partnership with Nokia is focused on wireless connectivity, she said.

"This is a wireless solution, and that increases the breadth of our networking options," Brady said.

Although the partnership with Nokia is global, wireless connectivity is more common in Europe than in the U.S., which is one reason the announcement was made there, she added.

The agreement with Nokia is not the first partnership Benton Harbor, Michigan-based Whirlpool has entered into with IT vendors. In January, Whirlpool signed similar agreements with Cisco Systems Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. [See "CES - Cisco Brings Networked Homes a Step Closer," Jan 6.]As part of its Integrated Home Solutions initiative, Whirlpool in May also joined the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) Forum, a Microsoft Corp.-backed initiative for enabling connectivity between PCs and a broad range of other devices.

South Korea's LG Electronics Inc., meanwhile, last month announced that it was ready to start shipping its first Internet-enabled refrigerator to domestic customers. Equipped with two flat-panel screens, LG said the Internet Digital DIOS Refrigerator can be used to surf the Web and even make phone calls. [See "LG Launches Internet Refrigerator," June 23.]Whirlpool, in Benton Harbor, Michigan, can be reached at +1-616-923-5000, or via the Web at http://www.whirlpoolcorp.com/. Nokia, in Espoo, Finland, is at +358-10-5051 or at http://www.nokia.com/.

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