Stepping out of its core chip-making business, Intel Corp. Thursday unveiled its first
integrated Web appliance.
The handheld device, dubbed Intel Dot.Station, features a built-in phone
and Internet access with e-mail and Web browsing capabilities.
intends to bring the unit to market though its
Internet service provider channel partner program. Intel Dot.Station will
be sold as part of an overall service package to ISPs, in the same way that
cable services sell set-top boxes. According to Intel, the unit will not be
sold in retail outlets.
The Intel device operates on the Linux operating system and features
built-in calendar functions, address books and note-posting capabilities.
Currently, the personal computer market remains dominated by machines using
Intel processors and Microsoft
Greg Welch, Intel home products group director of marketing, said the
decision to offer the Linux-based appliance was not designed to snub
“The decision to use Linux software to run the Dot.Station came at the
request of customers,” Welch said.
The Dot.Station device consists of a single freestanding unit with a
high-resolution monitor and a separate keyboard, as well as a built-in
phone. It also offers ISPs a consumer-friendly price point of $500 to $700
Welch said the inexpensive Web appliance was not designed to compete
directly with full-featured personal computers and he did not expect the
device to whittle away at the entry-level personal computer market segment.
“It’s targeted to those households that don’t yet have a PC, but are
nonetheless interested in getting online,” Welch said. “Installation
consists of plugging in the power, plugging in the phone line, plugging in
the keyboard and turning it on.”
“I don’t see it cutting into the PC business,” Welch added. “Quite
frankly, it would be my expectation that if consumers use our device, they
might find a need for a PC in their lives sooner than they would have if
they had never bought the device.”
Welch said the appliance is also ISP-friendly, because the Linux operating
platform allows service providers to remotely manage and upgrade the devices.
“Service providers would be able to customize the content and services of
the devices to match their brands,” Welch said.
Intel expects that its ISP partners would give the unit a way in tandem
with Internet access deals. But Welch would not name which national ISP
would be first to put the Dot.Station to work promoting branded Internet
“Our largest customer fully intends to offer the device to their customers
at this point for free,” Welch said.
Intel rolled out its ISP partnership program in July 1999 and has ties to
more than 50 ISPs in North America and as many as 150 ISPs worldwide.
US Online Network is a privately
held company that provides local ISPs with a platform to unite as a buying
consortium. Currently the network consists of more than 100 independent
ISPs that provide Internet access to over 1,000 cities in 42 states.
The Wenatchee, Washington-based organization is also one of Intel’s ISP
channel partners and will most likely put the Dot.Station appliance to work
at its members request to recruit new subscribers.
Steve Klock, US Online Network chief executive officer, said the Intel ISP
partnership program demonstrates its commitment to independent ISP owners
“Intel made a commitment to be a player in this market,” Klock said. “If
you want to make bets, better to invest in someone with deep pockets and
Intel’s Welch said research confirms that the Web appliance market segment
“It’s not unreasonable to guess that this is a billion-dollar business
opportunity,” Welch said. “The question is will that come in two years,
three years, four years.”
The Intel Dot.Station Web device is the first in a family of products the
firm intends to release. Intel expects to be shipping hundreds of thousands
of the devices by year-end, just in time to ride the seasonal wave of
holiday sales promotions.
Independent research firm Cahners In-Stat
Group reported in April that the sales of line-powered Internet
appliances would surge to well over 37 million units by 2004, up from just
over 2 million units sold in 1999.
While the In-Stat forecast includes sales of set-top devices, it estimates
that Internet appliances would account for $1.9 billion in sales of
microprocessor and memory devices in four years.