Internet Appliances (IAs) are apparently still trying to find their niche in the computer market if their presence at the PC Expo in New York is any indication. IBM and Intel had their IAs on display at the trade show. But the recently discounted SunRay IAs from Sun Microsystems are nowhere to found, and the jointly branded America Online/Gateway 2000 IA, which runs on Transmeta's Crusoe processor, is only available to members of the media.
"We don't want to give the wrong impression to people as far as what the final version of the device will look like," said Gateway spokesperson Ruth Rosene.
Rosene said Gateway is also waiting for applications being developed by America Online, which will act as the service provider for the devices, expected to be available by this Christmas.
Intel sees dots
Intel, at PC Expo with its recently announced Intel Dot.Station, believes the Internet Appliance space will be primarily a consumer-oriented one, according to Craig Miller, the director of marketing and business development at the home products group.
Intel, which only months ago dismissed the idea that the "building block supplier for the Internet" would build its own branded IA, is using the device to promote its suite of Network Management Software, and promote themselves as well.
"We could have worked with [equipment manufacturers], but we saw a chance to extend our brand equity [with the Dot.Station]," said Miller.
Officials at IBM, on the other hand, feel IAs have a significant future in the enterprise market, according to Edward Petrozelli, the vice president of marketing for the IBM's desktop and Net devices.
"We see [IAs] serving not only business-to-consumer e-commerce, but association to member, and client to individual," said Petrozelli.
IBM's IA program has had enterprise roots to it from the beginning, with trial launches involving Fortune 500 companies like the Fidelity Investments/Lycos/IBM trial run which took place earlier this year.
Petrozelli also predicts an explosion of IA-like devices as broadband begins to penetrate the homes of consumers, giving IBM a double-edged IA strategy.