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Netpliance: Internet with Training Wheels

As the popularity of the Internet continues to grow, companies are targeting a larger market than just PC users.

It is hard for me to imagine (but I know they exist), individuals who have never touched, seen, or experienced the World Wide Web. Netpliance knows its niche market and has developed a product and system to bring those individuals online.

The price range on this IPO is $13-15, the lead underwriter is Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette, and the proposed ticker symbol is NPLI.

Netpliance offers Internet-based content applications and services through their specifically designed products commonly known as Internet appliances. In November 1999 they introduced their i-opener service, which is an all-in-one Internet experience.

The i-opener service is made up of three elements:

  • Plug and play: The i-opener Internet appliance comes pre-configured and ready to access the Internet. A new user simply plugs the i-opener appl iance into an electric outlet and connects a phone line and they are up and running.
  • Easy Internet access: i-opener has its Internet access delivered over a nationwide dial-up network (currently available in the 48 contiguous states and Alaska). i-opener's plans include broadband delivery over DSL and cable lines.
  • Consumer portal: The i-opener portal provides an entrance point to the Internet for its users. This portal allows its users to access tailored content based upon their age and geographical location. (In the future i-opener intends to tailor content suited to their users personal preferences.)
  • In the summer of 1999, Netpliance entered into an agreement with GO.com (an affiliate of The Walt Disney Co.). In this agreement GO.com will serve as their content provider for children, family, sports, news, and entertainment related categories.

    While Netpliance's i-opener is not for everybody, it is perfect for its targeted users. Not only does Netpliance appeal to first time Internet users, but also those looking for a simple, cost effective solution.

    But does it make a sound investment? Well, it is targeting the consumer market and investors have been losing interest in the sector. Making money in the business-to-consumer space is no easy task. So long-term, Netpliance will definitely have many challenges to contend with.