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Toshiba, Spyglass team on Net phone design

Toshiba and Spyglass are working on a design for next-generation telephones capable of accessing the Internet, the companies announce.

Toshiba and Spyglass are working on a design for next-generation telephones with Internet access, the companies said today.

Scheduled for release in December, the new Web phone design comes as the industry is increasingly exploring nontraditional methods of connecting to the Internet. With the booming popularity of the Web, a rising number of major computer and consumer electronics companies are developing devices with limited functions, called Internet appliances, designed solely for Internet applications such as email and Web surfing.

The companies that manufacture these devices, which also include TV set-top boxes and wireless tablet computers, are poised for huge gains, market research firms say: In a recent survey by International Data Corporation, 41 percent of the U.S. population rated these types of appliances very attractive, and of those, 25 percent said they were likely to purchase one in the next 12 months.

The Toshiba phone will be based on a version of Microsoft's scaled down Windows CE operating system for information appliances and handheld computers. Although Windows CE is seen in many handheld computers and TV set-top boxes already, acceptance of the operating system in the consumer market has met with some resistance because of software bugs.

Toshiba's screen phone is designed to provide low-cost Internet access, the company said, and integrates the traditional telephone keypad and handset with a touch-screen display and keyboard. The phone is based on a Toshiba motherboard and processor.

Spyglass makes server software that allows providers to deliver different types of information--text only, or text and graphics--to different devices on the same Internet account.

"The new reference platform offers manufacturers a complete solution for developing products that target the growing consumer market for Internet appliances," said Toshiba business development manager Chong-Ho Choi, in a statement.

After its release in December, the reference design will be made available to potential manufacturers.