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SBC plans email-only device

Simplifying electronic messaging to the bare essentials, the telecommunications giant announces plans to offer an email-only personal computing device.

Simplifying electronic messaging to the bare essentials, telecommunications giant SBC Communications today announced plans to offer an email-only personal computing device.

Foregoing the use of a personal computer to send email, eMessage will feature a lightweight, 7-inch by 10-inch keyboard device, with a flip-up display screen, that attaches to a standard phone, and includes the email service from SBC's subsidiary companies.

Priced at $180 with a monthly email-only Internet service priced at less than $10 a month, eMessage is due to ship by the end of the month, the company said.

SBC Communications is one of the world's largest telecommunications companies and one of the nation's leading wireless communications providers. Through its subsidiaries, SBC provides telecommunications products and services under the Southwestern Bell, Pacific Bell, Nevada Bell, Cellular One, and SNET brands.

SBC recently signed a private-label agreement with messaging device maker Cidco, which will allow it to offer its customers a customized version of Cidco's email-only text messaging unit. The Cidco equipment will include numerous enhancements by SBC, including the ability to deliver Caller ID service, one of SBC's most popular calling options, with a subscriber rate as high as 70 percent in some of the company's markets.

"eMessage will help bridge the information technology gap for the 50 percent of U.S. households that do not have a home computer," Steve Dimmitt, SBC marketing vice president, said in a statement. "And for the technologically savvy, eMessage represents a convenient and easy way to communicate via email because it doesn't require the time to turn on a computer and log online."

With eMessage, users read or type emails, then plug into any phone line and push a button to send new email or retrieve incoming email all in a matter of seconds. The unit also includes a printer port connection for use with most standard printers, the company said.

eMessage will be available in California from Pacific Bell and in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas from Southwestern Bell. Detailed information on product pricing and ordering will be made available later.