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PC World

The shrink-wrap Web comes home

July 22, 1999
Web posted at: 5:00 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT)

by Stan Miastkowski internet graphic

(IDG) -- Startup Netpliance announced the Internet Personal Access Device--IPAD for short--this week. Targeted at families, IPAD is the first “shrink-wrap, instant on,” plug-and-play access device for the Internet, the company claims.

Available in September, the IPAD is an Internet-only PC that includes a keyboard and a detached 10-inch dual-scan color LCD display that displays a fixed resolution of 800 by 600 with 65K colors. The unit will sell for $399, with monthly Internet access (provided by GTE Internetworking) for $19.95, including four e-mail accounts and unlimited Web access.

The keyboard unit holds the IPAD’s intelligence, including a 200-MHz processor (the company won’t reveal which one), a 56 kbps modem, 32MB of memory, and 16MB of flash ROM for the operating system and applications. The IPAD also includes a built-in microphone and stereo speakers.
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But the IPAD lacks a floppy drive, hard drive, or CD-ROM. Web pages and e-mail are cached locally in memory, and software updates are loaded automatically from Netpliance via the Web.

The IPAD runs the QNX operating system, a tiny real-time OS designed to fit comfortably into ROM instead of taking up RAM space.

Netpliance claims there’s no involved installation or setup with IPAD. The unit’s proprietary “browserless” Web interface automatically dials the Internet when powered up and starts at your choice of one of six “I-Opener” Netpliance portals: Kids, Teens, Moms, Dads, Grandparents, and Families.

According to a company spokesperson, content for each of the I-Opener categories is formatted to minimize storage space on the IPAD. You can also compose and read e-mail offline. When you are connected, there’s a message-waiting light that alerts you to incoming mail.

You won’t get the word

Although you can view text or graphics e-mail attachments with the IPAD, as well as listen to attached sound files, currently the unit does not support Microsoft Word attachments. A sender who attempts to send a Word attachment in e-mail addressed to an IPAD user automatically receives a message back saying the format isn’t supported.

IPAD currently offers toll-free Internet access through about 700 locations in the U.S., which the company claims covers about 70 per cent of potential users. A Netpliance spokesperson says it’s negotiating local-access agreements with regional carriers and expects to have 100 per cent toll-free access by the end of the year.

Netpliance also plans on releasing a wireless version of the IPAD later this year.

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