Meet Audrey, 3Com's Wired Appliance
Stylish Web appliance supports e-mail and browsing, as
first member of 3Com's Ergo family.
Peter Olafson, special to PCWorld.com
Tuesday, October 17, 2000
wants to introduce you to Audrey, the sleek first member of its Ergo
family of Internet appliances, which takes a bow this week.
The $499 device is designed for
accessing the Web and e-mail. 3Com has designed it with a keen sense of
style, so perhaps its name is intended to remind you of Hepburn.
This slab of cream-colored plastic
with shiny steel buttons frames a responsive 4.75-by-6.25-inch color
touchscreen. The unit would look right at home in a well-appointed kitchen
or a hip doctor's office.
Its scepterlike stylus is Audrey's
crowning touch: When not in use, it rests in a recess atop the unit like
an Internet antenna; when you have e-mail, its top blinks with a green
3Com announced its foray into
Internet appliances last spring, intending to ship the first member of the
product family this summer. Then-chairman Eric Benhamou declared the units
would be "bigger than Palm," the venture that makes handheld
devices and spun off from 3Com earlier this year.
Access and Interface Options
Some of the 60 keys on Audrey's
wireless keyboard were a little too narrow for a typist with large hands.
But instead of typing e-mail messages, you can use the stylus to write one
on the touchscreen (your scribble is sent as a .gif attachment) or use the
built-in microphone to record a message (as a .wav file) up to three
Audrey comes with a custom browser
and works with many standard dial-up connections. If you add an optional
$59 Ethernet adapter, you can use high-speed Internet connections.
A centrally located knob on the
front lets you flip through 12 content channels specially tailored to the
unit. You can refresh these pages by tapping an Update Channel button, or
Audrey can perform updates automatically at intervals you can program.
Mail and data will be only as current as the last update.
Audrey is pricier than some
competing appliances. For example, the New
Internet Computer costs just $199, sans monitor.
But the Audrey appliance allows you
to choose your Internet connection, instead of being accompanied with the
cost of a designated ISP, as with the Microsoft Network Companions. (See "Ready
or Not, Here Come Net Appliances.")
What Happened to Internet Appliances?
Faulty premise and sky-high prices doomed Audrey and friends from the
start, analysts say.
Tom Mainelli, PCWorld.com
Thursday, April 12, 2001
Once heralded as potential PC killers, Internet
appliances today are dropping faster than pet-supply dot-coms. They're
bombing for some simple reasons, say analysts: They're based on several
faulty concepts, most notably their function.
The main purpose of most Internet appliances today
remains frustratingly unclear, says Milosz Skrzypczak, an analyst with the
Yankee Group who
a brief on the trouble with Internet appliances.
Are they supposed to be Web browsers, e-mail
stations, or something else? And, he asks, if an appliance is supposed to
do many of the things that a PC can do but it doesn't do them as well,
where is the appeal?
And then there's the price. Most appliances sell in
the range of $500 or more. If it's supposed to appeal to new users who
don't want a PC, it's too expensive, he says. And if it's supposed to be a
"companion" product to an existing PC, then it's much too
Rob Enderle, a research fellow at Giga
Information Group, puts the failings of Internet appliances even more
succinctly. "There was simply no proof the market wanted this,"
he says. "[Vendors] failed to place the customer in the mix."
The Rise and Demise of Net Appliances
As recently as last November's Comdex show, vendors
were trotting out their Internet appliance visions of the future. Major
vendors showed off new devices. Compaq unveiled
its Compaq IPaq Home Internet Appliance, while Gateway showed
the Connected Touch Pad, and 3Com heralded
the Ergo family, including Audrey. Even the editors
here at PC World seemed to think it was just a matter of time
before the idea caught on.
But signs of problems were already appearing.
Internet appliance pioneer Netpliance announced that same month it would
stop selling its I-opener product. Later, Virgin announced it would suspend
its Net appliance program just two months after launch.
Vendors should have known from the start these
early products weren't going to fly, Enderle says.
"The technology wasn't ready for what people
expected," he says. The LCD screens were too expensive to let vendors
sell the products at more reasonable prices, and the back-end services
weren't advanced enough to make simple Internet connections work the way
people expected, he says.
"The whole thing was very poorly thought
out," he says.
Live Fast, Die Young?
The fallout has been fast. Today, while Compaq
still offers its IPaq model, Gateway is "rethinking"
its Internet appliance strategy. 3Com has killed
its Internet appliance line, including the well-received Audrey. In the
end, 3Com's rash decision surprised even the analysts.
"Audrey was one of the best implementations of
what turned out to be a really bad idea," Enderle says. "It
could be the poster child for this."
Yankee's Skrzypczak says that while he found
Audrey's capabilities wanting--particularly its Web browsing--he was
amazed 3Com killed the product so quickly. "I was quite surprised--it
must have been bleeding money at an enormous rate," he says.
While he didn't expect the first version of Audrey
to be a huge success, with only six months on the market the product never
had a chance. But future versions of Audrey would have been better, and
its focus could have become more refined, he says.
However, by eliminating its Internet appliance
line, 3Com also put down a product that could have been a more immediate
success, he says. That product was the Kerbango
Future Is in Single-Use Devices
The Kerbango product, developed by a company that
3Com acquired, was a good one, Skrzypczak says.
"Its sole purpose was to play Internet
radio," he says. That type of product could work--you could see that
at Best Buy, he says. Why? Because when somebody asks what it does, you
say it plays music. And they understand that and they want it, he says.
"People will spend money if the purpose is
clear," he says. It's the same reason Palm-based handhelds have found
success--while they do many other tasks, their main purpose is as a
calendar, and people want that, he says.
That's likely the future of Internet appliances,
Skrzypczak says. They should be single-purpose products that are easy to
use, connected, and relatively inexpensive. Handheld MP3 players are a
logical extension of that model, he says. If you could connect your MP3
player to an Internet service and download songs for a small fee, you'd be
interested. Same goes for an Internet-ready digital camera that would let
you move your photos over the Web without a PC, he says.
For any of those devices to work well, however,
people will want bigger pipes to the Internet, Skrzypczak says. "I
don't see a successful appliance appearing before there is a sizable
increase in broadband and networked homes," he says.
As a best-case scenario, he expects a resurgence of
single-purpose Internet appliances sometime around 2003. By that time
broadband will be more widespread, and "things will get more
Introduces New Conceptual Product at Comdex
The Geode Extended Office is Designed for Road
Warriors Who Need Wireless "Anytime Access" to Office Data,
Business Applications and Video Conferencing
COMDEX, Las Vegas -- 17. November 2002 --National Semiconductor
Corporation (NYSE:NSM), the leading silicon and systems provider for
information access devices, today unveiled a new conceptual device for
mobile office workers who need easy wireless access to all their office
data and applications, including Windows XP and video conferencing.
The Geode™ Extended Office (GXO), created in collaboration with Citrix
Systems, Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS), a global leader in virtual workplace
software and services, combines key Internet, office and
video-conferencing applications in a compact portable about the size of a
framed 5 x 7 photograph. Incorporating both Bluetooth™ and 802.11b
wireless capabilities, the GXO is smaller, lighter and easier to carry
than laptops. It also provides a brigh 6-inch TFT display with 1024 x 768
resolution. The screen is four times the size and offers five times the
resolution of a high-end PDA.
The GXO extends National's tradition of introducing conceptual consumer
products at Comdex with National's key technology partners.
"The Geode Extended Office takes the concept of worker mobility to a
new level of functionality and productivity," said Mike Polacek, vice
president of the Information Appliance Division at National Semiconductor.
"Today's PDA's suffer from small displays and are incompatible with
software, content and corporate security requirements. The GXO integrates
PC-compatible software, ultra-low-power processing and wireless
connectivity to ensure seamless interfaces to existing business
infrastructure. This small, full-featured package is easy to deploy, easy
to use, and fun," Polacek said.
The GXO is a wireless thin client that uses 802.11b connectivity to access
corporate wireless LANs and Bluetooth to access web-based and other
information sources through cellular connections. Utilizing technology
from Citrix, the GXO can remotely run enterprise applications and access
data that are stored on a server.
The GXO is based on National's SC2200 Geode™ integrated system-on-a
chip. Embedded inside this chip is a fully PC-compatible x86 processor
that ensures software compatibility with Windows XP and other PC software.
The device is also enabled for both Citrix™ MetaFrame XP™ application
delivery and management software and NFuse Elite Access Portal software.
In addition to running virtually all software applications, the GXO has
more features than a PDA and more functional mobility than traditional
GXO Provides Instant Access on the Go
Armed with a GXO, an account manager en route to a customer meeting could
use the device to get driving directions via on-board mapping software and
GPS navigation. At the location, he or she could connect to web-based data
at headquarters using a wireless 802.11b connection. Before starting a
meeting, he or she can check email, contact information and meeting
details. At the meeting, the account manager could connect to a projector
and present the sales presentation using PowerPoint and use the GXO to
print a copy of the presentation on a Bluetooth printer. Finally, he or
she could open an Excel spreadsheet and conduct a videoconference with the
home sales office to confirm shipping, delivery and pricing.
Key Features of the Geode Extended Office
The GXO is 7.3 inches wide, 5.8 inches high and 0.9-inches thick. Weighing
one pound, nine ounces, National Semiconductor's GXO packs a world of
functionality into a compact, easy to travel form factor.
- SC2200 Geode processor
- Full Windows XP operating system
- On-board digital camera for video conferencing
- 6-inch TFT display with 1024 x 768 resolution
- 10-gigabyte Toshiba hard drive
- 802.11b and Bluetooth connectivity
- Enabled for both Citrix MetaFrame XP and NFuse Elite
"Easy-to-use multifunctional products are sure to be popular with a
large portion of the computer-literate market," said market analyst
Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies. "The inclusion of
standard protocols such as Bluetooth, 802.11b and the Windows XP OS, could
transform National's conceptual device into a mainstream tool that can be
used easily with existing systems and applications."
National's Technology Partners for the GXO
Working with world-class partners. National Semiconductor continues to
create enabling technology for information access devices that connect
consumers and corporate users to information and entertainment. Citrix
Systems, Inc. is a global leader in virtual workplace software and
services that provide access to applications, information, processes and
people on any device, over any network, anywhere, anytime.
"Citrix is working closely with National Semiconductor to develop a
server-based computing solution that provides mobile professionals with
real-time remote access to business-critical applications and data so they
can be productive at the office or offsite," said Keith Turnbull,
vice president and general manager of Citrix's mobility business unit.
"National's high-performance Geode processor and integrated analog
chipsets continue to drive the market for thin client systems that enhance
mobility, manageability and security, while providing lower total cost of
Other National partners in the GXO project include CoCom
International, which provided platform board and mechanical design;
and Studio RED, which provided industrial design and prototyping.
About National Semiconductor
National Semiconductor is the premier analog company driving the
information age. Combining real-world analog and state-of-the-art digital
technology, the company is focused on the fast growing markets for
wireless handsets; displays; information infrastructure, and information
appliances. With headquarters in Santa Clara, California, National
reported sales of $1.5 billion for its most recent fiscal year and has
about 10,000 employees worldwide.
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Sounds like you want Origami!
Many of the features you're looking for were built into the
Origami device built by National Semiconductor that was on display
at Comdex 2001. They were supposed to be on the market by 2002,
but never materialized.
The models on display there were even running actual copies of
Windows 98 and XP, not just Pocket PC or Win CE.
While it may be a bit bigger than the average PDA, you do get
EIGHT devices converged into one 7 1/2" x 4" x 1
1/2" platoform. The technology it was based on is a bit stale
and I'm sure they could probably trim the fat a bit and make it
even smaller if they tried.
It seems that National Semiconductor sold their interest in the
Geode processor to AMD. We'll just have to see what AMD does with
Posted by: Wolfie2K3
Posted on: 03/17/04
Comdex Takes A Breather
LAS VEGAS - Ask anyone who's attended the
annual rite of chaos known as COMDEX for the last several years and
you'll hear that each successive show seems somewhat smaller than
the last. This year there was absolutely no denying it.
Corporate travel budgets were already cut
way back before the tragedies of Sept. 11. In the wake of the
attacks, several exhibitors were said to have cancelled their COMDEX
plans. Indeed, in a typical year, the event has required not just
the Las Vegas Convention Center but also the nearby Sands Expo and
Convention Center to house all the exhibits. This year, the Sands
stood empty while the Las Vegas Convention Center provided enough
space for everyone--with room to spare.
It's probably just as well: After a string
of COMDEX shows packed to the rafters with scores of products that
often pushed the envelope, several areas of technology decided to
take a breather. And many companies opted to show off prototypes
that as yet exist only in a lab or on a product roadmap for the next
couple of years.
The best example of this is easily the Origami Personal Communicator
from chipmaker National Semiconductor (nyse: NSM
So named for the multitude of ways it can be folded, Origami is many
products in one: a personal digital assistant (PDA) running
Microsoft's Windows XP, digital camera, portable Internet access
device, smart mobile phone and an MP3 digital music player that
supports both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless networking all crammed
into a single package. Or rather it would be if it actually existed.
Origami: Bend it, shake it, but you can't buy it.
Anyone examining the Origami up close would
have noticed that the tiny keyboard did little more than light up
when its keys were pressed. The rotating digital camera worked on
some of the units and the touch-sensitive screen was also
functional. The colorful contortionist gadget is actually nothing
more than a prototype whipped up in National's labs, meant to
promote the virtues of its Geode SC3200 processor and get the minds
of electronics companies thinking about new products that might use
It's not the first time National has used a
prototype to anchor its presence at COMDEX. In 1998, it built a
demonstration product that it called a Web pad--a portable
flat-panel display screen that connected to the Internet
wirelessly.* The pad concept was promoted to create a vehicle for
National's first generation of Geode chips. Web pad products from
several manufacturers, including Honeywell International (nyse:
have been on the market for more than a year; many use National's
chip. Company executives say they expect it will be another few
years before someone takes the Origami concept and turns it into a
One technology that makes products like Web
pads readily portable is wireless networking, specifically the type
technically known as IEEE 802.11b, but also popularly called Wi-Fi.
After a multiyear debate over how home users would be most likely to
build networks in their houses--which included using phone-line
wiring, electrical outlets and even Ethernet cables commonly used in
office networks--wireless networking has emerged as the big winner.
Several companies, among them Cisco
Systems (nasdaq: CSCO
Agere Systems (nyse: AGRa
and 3Com (nasdaq: COMS
have developed products intended to make it easy to build a home
wireless network. But it certainly has a long way to go: Getting a
device like a laptop or PDA to talk to the wireless network properly
and configure itself isn't always easy.
The fate of wireless networking is directly
tied to the growth of broadband Internet connections in the home,
such as cable modems and DSL connections. While there are thousands
of people around the U.S. who have broadband access, a wireless
network-- which lets several computers share a fast Internet
connection at once--are certainly not all that common. Once you've
used it, however, it's hard to go back. Microsoft has certainly
thrown its weight behind the technology by making sure it works
easily with the latest version of the Windows operating system. And
if the tablet PC concept that Microsoft has been promoting takes
off, it will likely rely heavily on wireless networking.
Wireless networking will also play a huge
role in the corporate computing environment. Wireless connectivity
to handheld PDAs, notebook PCs and pretty much any other type of
work-saving device you can think of will play a big role in the next
year or two, as companies look for ways to give people who spend a
lot of workday time away from their desks a way to access stored
information. Wireless capability is already starting to show up in
some peripherals like printers. Japan's Toshiba announced a
combined printer-copier-fax machine that can connect to the office
network either with a wire or without.
And get ready for a new bit of IT
buzz-jargon: B2E. Taking its lineage from B2B for
business-to-business and B2C for business-to-consumer, B2E stands
for business-to-employee. It refers to using wireless connectivity
to bring the office network with you when you're away. It might also
know to lock the screen of your office desktop machine when you've
gone home for the night. John Prial, vice president of
marketing at the Pervasive Computing Division at IBM (nyse: IBM
says we're only a few years away from networks that keep track of
not only our data, but also our physical location. The network will
be smart enough to direct e-mail to a mobile device based on the
time of day or your location in or out of the office.
Wireless might be the spark that lights up
corporate IT spending next year. A recent market study by Cahners
In-Stat suggests that corporate America will finish 2001 having
spent 12% less on information technology than in 2000.
But one strong argument for going wireless
is to help increase the productivity of workers when they're away
from the office. Given all the layoffs over the last year, there are
thousands of workers still employed who believe they now have more
to do. If that turns out to be the case, it might mean that by
encouraging an increase in IT spending, those layoffs might
contribute just a bit to the technology market's eventual recovery.
And maybe even help foster more exciting COMDEX shows to come.
*A previous version of this story
incorrectly stated that Honeywell built the original demonstration
|Origami Mobile Communicator
|Jenny Levine (netConnect)
Departments > Product Pipeline
|Jenny Levine unveils
the latest in hardware and software for those on the cutting edge
Why the name Origami? Because it can be folded in multiple
configurations to be a digital camera, video camcorder, smartphone,
or MP3 player. An integrated touch-screen makes the PDA functions
easier to use. Built-in Bluetooth connectivity allows it to link to
high-speed networks, because the Bluetooth protocol lets devices
talk to each other without cables or wires. While similar to the
Clie PEG-NR70V, because the Origami doubles as a cell it can be used
for videoconferencing and e-mail. Measuring just 7½" x 3½"
x 1½" and weighing about ten ounces, the device runs Windows
XP embedded and has the option of a 1GB microdrive to handle the
video storage requirements. Although originally a proof-of-concept
device, the Origami may be available by the end of this year.
Pricing is yet to be set.
For Librarians? In the future, patrons will be
able to send and receive video and will want to download this type
of content from libraries to their mobile devices—if we can
circulate it. Perhaps a future edition of Fodor's Guide to Disney
World will be a digital video that a patron can download to an
Origami-like device and then view while waiting in line at Epcot. www.national.com/origami
Semiconductor Introduces Geode Origami Portable Mobile Communicator,
Industry's First Device to Combine Eight Consumer Electronics Products In
One Flexible Unit
Innovative conceptual device integrates wireless video
communication and phone, digital camera, video camcorder, MP3 audio, PDA,
Internet access, email and Microsoft Windows Embedded XP OS in a unique
LAS VEGAS, NV-COMDEX-November 11, 2001-
National Semiconductor Corporation (NYSE: NSM), the leading silicon and
systems provider for information appliances, today unveiled a new
handheld conceptual device that integrates today's most popular Internet
and multimedia functions into a single, portable unit. About the size
and weight of a small digital camcorder, the National? Geode? Origami?
Mobile Communicator is a flexible unit that folds and unfolds to perform
eight popular consumer electronics functions in one easy-to-use device.
The Geode Origami Mobile Communicator is a proof-of-concept device for
original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), developed under a joint
agreement between National Semiconductor's Conceptual Products Group,
Studio RED Inc., and CoCom International, Ltd.
"Origami is a glimpse into the future. It is a revolutionary
convergence concept that artfully blends National's Geode integrated
processor, and wireless, display and analog technologies," said
Michael Polacek, vice president of the Information Appliance Division at
National Semiconductor. "Origami combines National's silicon
and software technologies, innovative industrial design, and the
Microsoft Windows Embedded XP operating system into a package that's
small, incredibly feature rich, and ultimately fun to use."
Key Features of the Geode Origami Mobile
Measuring just 71/2" long, less than 4" wide,
11/2" thick and weighing about 10 ounces, Origami's flexible form
factor reflects its multiple uses. The Origami folds and pivots
into a digital camera, video camcorder, smartphone, MP3 audio player,
PDA, Internet access or Internet picture frame, email device or video
"Origami is perfect for people on the move who
want to stay connected to family, friends and business associates while
accessing the information they need," said Michael Polacek.
Key features of the Origami include a 4" TFT LCD 640 x 480
resolution display with integrated touch screen support, integrated
16-bit stereo sound capability with built-in microphone and speaker,
headphone and hands-free headset connectors, USB and Compact Flash ports
and long battery life for hours of mobility.
Origami utilizes Bluetooth? wireless technology for
network connectivity. PAN and LAN networks use a
Bluetooth-equipped access point, while WAN uses a Bluetooth GSM or CDMA
phone. Origami can also be scaled for future 2.5 and 3G cellular
networks such as GPRS and W-CDMA.
The device runs Microsoft Windows Embedded XP and leverages the broad
array of applications already available for that platform - applications
such as NetMeeting for videoconferencing, Internet Explorer 6.0 for
browsing and Windows Media Player.
"Easy-to-use multifunction products will be popular with a large
portion of the population," said Egil Juliussen, president of
eTForecasts, a computer and Internet industry analyst firm.
"Multifunction or convergence products tend to be a bargain versus
several single-function products, and they take up less space."
National's Technology Partners
Studio RED, Inc., a Silicon Valley product development firm,
has designed and engineered high-tech consumer products for almost 20
years. National approached Studio RED to create the industrial
design for its revolutionary Origami prototype.
"The challenge for Studio RED was to develop a
totally new product identity that was the visual equivalent of National
Semiconductor's incredibly advanced technology," said Victor
Lazzaro, vice president of design for Studio RED. "With a
tight, unforgiving deadline, we produced a rugged, sophisticated design
that complemented the wizardry housed inside. We enjoyed working
with an imaginative company like National. Their innovation and
curiosity freed us to really push the limits in pursuit of something
CoCom International, Ltd., a worldwide leader in the
design and manufacture of a wide range of products and services for
business and personal use, completed the manufacturing process by
combining the silicon content from National with the industrial design
from Studio RED.
National Technology Inside
National's award-winning, high performance, low power Geode
SC3200 processor is at the heart of Origami. This processor
features integrated, high-end video graphics and full 16-bit stereo
audio that offers the optimal balance between cost, performance and
power consumption, enabling manufacturers to build affordable,
National's analog technology brings the Geode Origami
Mobile Communicator to life with sound powered by National's Boomer?
audio products, a display enhanced by National's LVDS technology, power
management products that prolong battery life while increasing
portability, and temperature sensors that monitor and maintain overall
system health. Origami is also designed to take full advantage of
the complete range of features of National's Wireless Solutions
Bluetooth Compact Flash card.
Origami is the latest in a series of industry-shaping
products National has introduced at COMDEX Fall. In 1998, the company
unveiled the WebPAD? device, which spawned a new category of products:
information appliances. Last year, National received the
"Best of Show" award in the services category for its Geode
WebPAD Metro, a wide-area mobile personal access device. National named
its new Origami device after the Japanese art of folding paper into
birds, animals or other artistic shapes. Addional information about
Origami is available at www.national.com/origami
To view a high-resolution, downloadable photo of the Origami, visit
National's photo gallery at http://www.national.com/company/pressroom/gallery/webpad.html.
About National Semiconductor
National Semiconductor is the premier analog
company driving the information age. Combining real-world analog and
state-of-the-art digital technology, the company is focused on the fast
growing markets for wireless handsets; information appliances;
information infrastructure; and display, imaging and human interface
technologies. With headquarters in Santa Clara, California, National
reported sales of $2.1 billion for fiscal year 2001 and employs about
9,700 people worldwide. Additional company and product information
is available on the World Wide Web at www.national.com.
Who designed this appealing looking product?
Studio RED, Inc.
see the designers and some of their other thought provoking forms they
have brought to items in our everyday life.
National Semiconductor Unveils Software Platform,