Compaq Launches Internet Appliance

Tuesday, August 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Compaq Computer Corp. is the first major computer maker to launch an ``Internet appliance,'' a stripped-down computer that some analysts say will replace PCs as the most common way to get online.

The iPaq Home Internet Appliance, about the size of a small VCR, comes with a built-in screen and a wireless keyboard. It runs a Microsoft operating system and can access the Web only through Microsoft Corp.'s Internet service provider, MSN.

At a press conference in New York on Tuesday, Compaq also planned to present a small portable player for digital music in the MP3 format and a ``residential gateway,'' a device that is intended to act as the electronic hub of a home, connecting computers and other devices to the Internet and one another.

The Houston-based company was also set to announce today an agreement with Research In Motion Ltd., a maker of pagers that can send and receive e-mails wirelessly. Compaq will sell the pagers along with the servers and software that consumers need to run the Blackberry pagers.

The new devices will all be marketed under the iPaq brand, which the company first introduced late last year with its easy-to-use desktop computer for the corporate market.

``People want a common set of devices that they can typically use on the job or in the home or on the road and that is one of the messages behind the new branding,'' Michael Winkler, Compaq's head of corporate PCs, said in an interview before the announcement. ``Ipaq represents Internet experiences that cross commercial and consumer boundaries.''

``Internet appliance'' has become something of a buzzword as the computer industry attempts to sell its products to households that are intimidated by the operating systems and applications used by most PCs. Microsoft launched the WebTV set-top boxes with that market in mind, and last year startup Netpliance Inc. launched the i-opener, a device similar to but less capable than Compaq's.

The Compaq appliance is limited to Web browsing, e-mail and instant messaging. It will cost $599, but MSN will give a $400 rebate if the customer commits to three years of Internet service.

Compaq plans to expand the line with an Internet appliance that has a built-in monitor and is less expensive. It will also put out an appliance that can connect to a TV set.

Compaq's competitor in the low end of the PC market, Emachines Inc., is planning to launch a similar appliance later this year. It too will run the MSN Companion operating system. Gateway Inc., another computer maker, is creating a ``Web pad'' that can hang on a wall and connect to America Online. The device is due this holiday season.

The number of Non-PC devices that can access the Web, including appliances such as Compaq's, game consoles and Internet-enabled mobile phones, could outstrip the number of PCs sold as early as next year, according to a report by the Parks Associates research group.


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