Sun Microsystems and French telecommunications giant Alcatel
are working together to develop a consumer electronics device with lots of
space-age style: Internet screen phones.
Alcatel's screen phones are
consumer-oriented devices combining a telephone with a basic Web browser,
letting people easily connect to the Internet. They have a 7.5-inch touch
screen, retractable keyboard, and smart card reader, and use a Sun Web browser running on the JavaOS for consumers operating system.
The first screen phone, due at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 1999,
is expected to cost about $350,
although consumers also will have to pay
Internet connection fees, said Karen Peck, director of marketing at Alcatel USA. The Internet screen
phone is intended for quick Web-based transactions such as ordering pizza
or downloading stock quotes.
Sun and Alcatel benefit from jointly designing and marketing the device,
Sun spokeswoman Rebecca Baer said.
Alcatel has about 12,000 employees in the U.S., and a few of them have been
based at Sun facilities for about a year, working on screen phone
technology, Peck said.
The first generation of the phone will connect with a 33.6-kbps modem that
shares one phone line for Internet and regular phone calls, though future models will be able to handle two lines, she said, as well as ADSL
high-speed connection techniques.
The Internet screen phone bears some similarity
to other consumer Internet appliances, such as Web TV, that are intended to shield users
from some of the complexities of the Internet. WebTV boxes automatically
dial into the Internet over a phone line, but in the future, WebTV plans to
achieve high-speed Internet access using cable TV infrastructure. ADSL uses
Alcatel will sell the Internet screen phones internationally through
retailers and in combination with phone companies. Alcatel also is working
on arranging deals with Internet service providers for Web access, Peck