Gateway, AOL Team on Net Appliances

The companies announced at Internet World Wednesday three new Linux-based Gateway Internet appliances that will feature "Instant AOL," a slim version of AOL's client software. Gateway will offer a countertop unit, a wireless Web pad, and a desktop appliance, each priced at under $500, says John Spelich, Gateway's director of corporate communications.

The countertop unit will go well in the kitchen or family room, mounted and stationary. It will use a flat-panel touch screen and a wireless keyboard, and could ship by the end of the year.

The wireless Web pad will be a sub-three pound mobile device that works anywhere within the home. It will have a touch screen and a wireless keyboard, and will reach out to the Web through an Internet-connected base station. Gateway won't say which wireless standard the device will use, and the Web pad won't be available until 2001.

Finally, the desktop appliance will look similar to a desktop PC, with a standard CRT-type monitor, keyboard, and mouse. It's larger than the other two devices, will cost the least of all three, and should arrive late this year.

Each device will ship with a modem and an Ethernet port (to support a broadband connection). Each will also have some built-in home network connectivity, he says.

However, none of the units will contain a hard drive. Gateway won't say what type of processor they will use, but Spelich didn't rule out the possibility of Transmeta's new chips.

It's important to understand that each product is a true Internet appliance, Spelich says. That means they won't offer the same functionality as a basic PC. If you want to run a spreadsheet program, you should buy a Gateway PC, he says.

Their function is Internet access--fast and simple, the way people want it, he says.

Gateway Goes Gecko

The Gateway devices will have a simple interface that provides easy access to AOL's services using the new Gecko browser technology from Netscape. Gecko proved to be a perfect fit for the storage-deprived units.

"Gecko is very small; it doesn't take a lot of code," says Jim Martin, senior vice president and general manager at Netscape. "We needed to get something smaller and faster."

The Gecko browser is a mere 5.5MB, half the size of Netscape's current browser and even smaller than its competition, he says. And not only is it tiny, but it's fast and works with all the current Internet standards.

It's customizable, too. That means consumers can make their browser look just the way they want it. You'll be able to apply "skins" that change the appearance of the interface.

Gateway executives were quick to point out that the three devices announced Wednesday are only the first of many being developed in conjunction with AOL. The companies promise additional interesting hardware down the road.

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