Intel launches Web appliance

On Wednesday, Intel announced the Dot.Station, a "Web appliance" that will come ready to plug and play right out of the box.

You won't purchase a Dot.Station from Intel or your local computer dealer. Instead, it will come from your internet service provider or another organisation that wants your business over the Internet, such as a bank, stockbroker, or travel agent. And, depending on how they're configured, some Dot.Stations will provide added extras such as internet telephony services.

The Dot.Station can't be used for anything other than internet-related services. It doesn't have a CD-ROM, DVD, or floppy drive, and you can't load your own software into it.

Dot.Stations are shipping now to service providers, although the companies involved aren't ready to announce their services yet, according to an Intel spokesperson. You should be able to obtain a Dot.Station sometime this fall.

Pricing, according to Intel, will be determined by the service providers and will vary widely. But the company does provide some likely scenarios. Some providers will charge an up-front fee for the Dot.Station along with a monthly fee; some will provide it for a monthly rental, and some are even expected to provide it as a free advertiser-supported service.

Another aspect of the Dot.Station is that it doesn't include any Microsoft software. The unit runs an Intel-modified version of the Red Hat Linux distribution, and initially the Netscape 4.73 browser. Later versions will run Mozilla, a Netscape Communications-like open-source browser for Linux.

Hardware-wise, there's an Intel Celeron CPU (300 MHz to 400 MHz, depending on configuration), 32MB of memory, and a 4.3GB hard disk drive. Intel expects later versions to be diskless, with all required software stored in memory.

The Dot.Station is equipped with a 56-kbps modem, although Intel will support Digital Subscriber Line connections in future versions.

The Dot.Station has a custom keyboard with an integrated track-pad pointing device, as well as 14-inch CRT with 1024 by 768 resolution. Menu items are arranged on the screen in an "L" shape along the left and bottom, leaving an 800-by-600-pixel window for Web content.

Intel is providing service providers who will sell the Dot.Station with the System Management Suite, which will allow them to remotely manage, upgrade, and troubleshoot the units online.

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