Compaq announces new Net devices

Compaq Computer Corp. debuted on Tuesday new devices in their iPaq line, as well as services intended to allow Internet access in any room of the home or at work, because increasingly Net users want ubiquitous connectivity.

Researchers forecast that 45 per cent of U.S. Internet users will use more than one Net device by 2003, according to Mike Larson, Compaq’s senior vice-president and general manager for the consumer products group, speaking at a news conference.

Larson and Mike Winkler, senior vice-president and group general manager of the commercial personal computer group, announced the devices and services during a New York news conference that also was available via Webcast and call-in. The highlights of the announcement, which were aimed mostly at the consumer market, include:

– IPaq BlackBerry wireless e-mail software and devices: Compaq has teamed with Research In Motion Ltd. to use that vendor’s BlackBerry wireless technology in two wireless devices that can be handheld or worn. Compaq will offer two devices that enable e-mail access from nearly anywhere in the U.S., company officials said.

The first device, the iPaq W1000, is priced at US$399 and is available now. The second device, the H1100, will be out in the middle of next month and will cost $499. Unlimited usage airtime service will cost $39.99 monthly for e-mail only, and users have to make a one-year airtime commitment.

– IPaq Home Internet Appliance: Termed “Web in a box” by Compaq, the appliance is meant to provide instant Internet access. Users simply plug it in and turn it on.

“It’s incredibly easy to use,” said Rick Belluzzo, group vice-president for the consumer group at Microsoft Corp., speaking at the news conference. The appliance uses Microsoft’s MSN Companion Service so that users can quickly set up an e-mail account and receive 24-hour support from Microsoft.

Automatic software updates will be made occasionally over the Internet for maintenance and to protect against obsolescence, according to Compaq. Consumers who want a PC alternative for e-mail and simple Web access are the target audience for the device, which turns on like a TV and has just two cords, one for power and one to connect to the phone.

– IPaq Connection Point: Through a partnership with Internet security vendor WatchGuard Technologies Inc., Compaq is offering a device that enables wireless access and home networking using existing phone lines, wireless networking for mobility, 10/100 Base-T Ethernet networking or a combination of those three. The product will be available for $499 within the next 60 days. WatchGuard is providing firewall protection, parental control, content filtering and security service for the device.

– IPaq Personal Audio Player PA-1: Offering support for multiple formats, the device is aimed at making music downloads easy and convenient. It also is designed to accept upgrades when online music technology evolves. Using a plug-and-play feature, users can download music files from their computers without using memory sticks. The audio player is supposed to be available in the U.S. market by the end of this month for $249.99.

Compaq officials also took the opportunity to tout the company’s iPaq Pocket PC, which has been out since April.

Compaq, in Houston, can be reached at