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Netpliance, eBay team for one-touch auction access

The Internet access device maker and the online auctioneer team to provide instant access to eBay through a single computer key.

Internet access device maker Netpliance and eBay have entered into an agreement to provide instant access to the leading auction site through a single computer key.

Netpliance's I-opener is a standalone device that sells for $99 and includes a $21-per-month subscription fee for Internet access. Today's deal will place a separate button on the I-opener console that will allow customers to connect to eBay directly online.

With its easy-to-use appliance, the company is targeting first-time Net surfers or those who aren't comfortable navigating through the complexities of a PC. The company is not alone in this market, as many of technology's heavy hitters have also signed on to offer their own Net appliances.

Microsoft, Compaq Computer and Gateway, to name a few, are already working on their own devices. There is good reason for the interest. The market for TV set-top boxes, handheld computers and gaming consoles--all geared to access the Net--is expected to grow substantially, from 11 million units shipped in 1999 to 89 million units in 2004, according to market research firm International Data Corp.

Netpliance says it plans to form similar keyboard real estate deals with other e-commerce companies and has already tested the concept with a special key that links to local pizzerias.

Compaq's Presario personal computers contain keyboard buttons that load specific Web services, such as free email, search functions and e-commerce sites. Compaq's one-touch Net buttons connect consumers to CMGI-owned AltaVista, but the company has also signed a deal with Microsoft to link to the software giant's MSN service if a consumer signs up for a co-branded Compaq-MSN Internet service provider.

News.com's Jim Davis contributed to this report