Seventeen tech companies have formed the Digital Home Working Group (DHWG), a non-profit consortium that will try to make it easier for consumers to share digital content among a variety of networked devices.

Companies that have joined the DHWG include: Fujitsu, Gateway, HP, Intel, IBM, Kenwood, Lenovo, Matsushita Electric (Panasonic), Microsoft, NEC CustomTechnica, Nokia, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, STMicroelectronics and Thomson.

They will attempt to create design guidelines based on industry standards that support the sharing of digital photos, music and video among interoperable personal computers, TVs, set-tops, stereos, DVD players, personal digital assistants and other mobile devices.

DHWG said design guidelines will use established standards such as Internet Protocol, UPnP and Wi-Fi. However, the group reportedly has not yet come to terms on how to address digital rights management to protect copyrighted content.

The group said its goal is to deliver those guidelines and turn out the first "compliant" products within the next year. DHWG-certified products will bear compliance logos.

The member companies said interoperability is required before home networking and the applications to support it can reach a critical mass.

"One of the critical requirements for mass-market success of networked devices is true and reliable interoperability," said Danielle Levitas, director of IDC's consumer devices and services programs.

The DHWG effort also seems to mirror home networking projects well under way in the cable and DSL industries.

CableLabs, for example, has already certified several CableHome-compliant cable modem gateways.

Earlier this month, The DSL Forum launched the DSLHome initiative. The Consumer Electronics Association and the Wi-Fi Alliance were among a group of 11 organizations to endorse the project, which includes both technical and marketing elements.

The CEA, IDC, Internet Home Alliance and Wi-Fi Alliance also pledged support for the new DHWG initiative.