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Oracle's new Net appliance worth pretty penny on Amazon

The company's first New Internet Computers are fetching bids of more than $550--more than the expected retail price tag--on an Amazon.com auction.

Oracle's first New Internet Computers (NICs) are fetching bids of more than $550--more than the expected retail price tag--on an Amazon.com auction.

Although the first 10 NICs being auctioned come with certificates of authenticity signed by chief executive Larry Ellison himself, the current auction price tag (excluding $59 for shipping) far exceeds the expected retail price for these computers when they hit the shelves next week.

The New Internet Computer Co. (NICC), a division of Oracle, plans to sell the appliances on its Web site. With a monitor, the NICs will cost $328--still less the latest bids on Amazon. Without a monitor, the NIC will sell for $199.

The NIC does not come with a hard drive and runs on the open-source Linux operating system. The sleek black unit is powered by a Pentium-compatible chip from Cyrix, and its lone drive is a CD-ROM.

The first NICs were placed on Amazon's auction site earlier this week. The auction will continue until July 9.

The NIC is the successor to the failed Network Computer (NC), which Oracle introduced in 1997. NICC, in fact, uses the same logo as Network Computer, the Oracle subsidiary created to promote NCs.

The idea behind both devices is the same: to put most of the computing muscle and complexity in a network, with a stripped-down terminal used to access programs and resources from a network.

Despite titanic marketing efforts, NCs fell flat commercially. Corporate buyers and consumers ignored the devices as PCs dropped drastically in price, eliminating much of the cost benefit of the NC. By early 1998, NC had already been shoved off the industry stage.

Network Computer eventually went into the software business and was renamed Liberate Technologies.