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Encanto previews Net appliances

The company is offering fall Internet World '97 attendees the first look at a new bundle intended to make it easy to set up a Web presence.

Encanto Networks is offering fall Internet World '97 trade show attendees the first look at a new hardware and software bundle intended to make it easy to set up a presence on the Web.

The so-called Internet appliances, first reported by CNET's NEWS.COM last week, offer customers an easy-to-use package for less than $1,000, according to company executives.

The company hopes to ease use by simplifying the installation and configuration of a series of software programs for building a site and allowing users to implement a transaction system for electronic commerce.

The new boxes, called "e.go," will debut early next year in two versions: a base model to get a small businesses up and running with Net access, email, and Web site creation tools; and a "commerce" edition that includes catalog creation software and a payment system.

The software is based on the Java programming language. A version of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), a layer of software that makes Java programs run, will be included in the bundle.

The software will take advantage of a basic series of "templates" that businesses can use to get their Web sites going, or customers can go beyond the templates to customize the look and feel of their sites, according to Encanto chief executive Robert Frankenberg.

The hardware basically will act as a typical server system, with support for a variety of Net connections, including analog modems and ISDN (integrated services digital network). Encanto will offer a service to connect the appliance to an Internet service provider.

Frankenberg said the company's focus would be on the small office/home office (SOHO) market.

"There certainly is a fear and concern that this is complicated stuff," Frankenberg said. "Our biggest challenge will be convincing people how easy it is when there are so many people convincing people how hard it is."

The box has piqued the interest of at least one major corporation. The company is currently in discussion with a corporation, which it declined to name, over a possible order of 20,000 units. Frankenberg said the company is looking at giving its customers the Encanto boxes to create an extranet.

The new Encanto software and hardware is currently in beta and will be generally available at the start of next year. The base model costs $995 while the commerce edition costs $1,295.