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RealTime IT News

Despite Amazon e-Mail, Segway Still Motoring

Technophiles anxious to be among the first to own Segway's Human Transport scooter were alarmed by an e-mail from e-commerce giant Amazon yesterday.

"We've recently learned from our supplier that the item you requested to be notified about, Segway Human Transporter (also known as "Ginger" or "IT"), will not be available in the foreseeable future," the message read.

Some took this as an ominous sign that Segway, based in Manchester, N.H., was in trouble. Not so. In reality, the problem was more pedestrian -- an e-mail snafu.

"A small number of customers were e-mailed in error by one of our automated e-mailing systems today," an Amazon spokeswoman told internetnews.com. "In actuality there is no new information about Segway availability. We of course will let that small number of customers know that they should disregard the e-mail."

Neither company cited the number of potential customers that received the message.

The self-balancing scooters, top speed 12.5 miles per hour, are being marketed to business and governement organizations such as police departments and the U.S. Postal Service. They sell for about $5,000.

The consumer version should be available next year and is expected to cost less than the commercial version, said Carla Vallone, Segway's spokewoman.

Individuals interested in the machines can register at the Segway or Amazon Web sites to be notified when general release is available. Amazon and Segway have had a relationship since early this year, when three scooters were auctioned on the site, with proceeds to benefit charity.

In the auction, Segway HT No. 1 sold to an individual in Texas for $160,100. Segway 2 sold to someone in Illinois for $104,100, and Segway 3 sold to someone in Virginia for $100,600.

Last year, Segway founder Dean Kamen sparked a firestorm of publicity as he prepared to unveil the transports.

Kamen, a Granite State inventor, was instrumental in developing the transporters. His resume peppered with successful inventions including: the first portable pump for insulin and other drugs; a portable dialysis machine; a six-wheeled wheelchair that climbs stairs.