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Epods unveils device for Net newbies

The company debuts its first Internet appliance, launching a device and complementary online service targeted at first-time Web users.

Epods today debuted its first Internet appliance, launching a device and complementary online service targeted at first-time Web users.

The company today unveiled the EpodsOne, a tablet-shaped device which connects to the Internet via a 56-kbps modem. The appliance is designed to be used with Epods' online service, which includes email, calendar, and content from a variety of partnerships.

Epods also announced today a partnership with search engine Google for the company to provide search functionality to the service.

Like many other companies, Epods is targeting people who don't own computers or aren't already using the Internet.

Although industry heavyweights including Microsoft, Intel, Gateway, and Dell are all competing in this market, Epods believes its merchandising strategy will set it apart from PC makers or other technology companies.

Epods is distributing its device through department stores and infomercials, rather than computer retailers or other venues which may intimidate the women and seniors the company is targeting. Epods is backed by Salton, the merchandising company behind such infomercial legends as the George Foreman Grilling Machine, the Breadman and the Juiceman.

With market research indicating the PC penetration growth rates are holding steady at around 50 percent of U.S. households, Epods and other companies believe simple, scaled-down devices are the way to attract these more hesitant users.

International Data Corp., which

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predicts that shipments of these devices will outpace shipments of PCs by 2004, projects that the market for Internet appliances will reach $17.8 billion by that year.

"We believe that the home is the most relevant market today for an all in one device like the EpodsOne," Shae Hong, co-founder of Epods, said in a statement today. "We think the stylish, fun, and hassle-free Epods experience will make the excitement and functionality of the Web a reality for the millions of consumers who have yet to go online."

The EpodsOne will be sold at first directly from the company's Web site for $199, with a monthly service fee of $24.99 for 36 months.