CAN THE U.S.--AND MAYBE the world--become one enormous local-area network? That may not be such a farfetched idea, according to network software king Novell Inc. At the Comdex computer show, Novell President Robert J. Frankenberg unveiled a plan to use the company's Netware as a way to bring information services to consumers over cable-TV lines. Frankenberg also announced that General Instrument Corp., the leading maker of TV set-top boxes, will help develop the new system in a project called Netware Home.

The companies will not say how soon they expect to produce a working system, but Novell Vice-President Darl McBride promises it will arrive "sooner rather than later." He says using the familiar Netware standard will make it easy for banks, credit-card companies, publishers, and others to write consumer applications. After all, he points out, "the Information Superhighway is a network."

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