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Whistle to ship small business server

Whistle brings plug-and-play connectivity to the small business market with a new server computer that provides email, Web browsing, and Web publishing features for under $2,000.

    Whistle Communications is hoping to bring plug-and-play connectivity to the small business market next week with a new server computer that provides email, Web browsing, and Web publishing features for under $2,000.

    The start-up company will introduce on Monday the InterJet 100 and at the same time is expected to announce that the product will be sold through Netcom and PSINet, two large Internet service providers.

    "It's a server, firewall, and router all in one, but we're marketing it like a device for the Internet," said Karl Wong, director of product marketing at InterJet.

    The InterJet 100 is about 8 inches high, 6-3/4 inches deep, and contains a 486 processor and Unix OS, 8MB of RAM, and 1GB hard drive. A four-port Ethernet hub is integrated for connection to the office LAN (local area network). The box also has a built in 28.8-kbps modem and support for ISDN, frame relay, and T1 connections.

    Whistle thinks it has a good jump on getting small businesses (those with fewer than 100 employees) connected. The company is promising that a user can set it up in 10 to 15 minutes, a feat which beta testers confirmed.

    A user will plug in their name and information from a registration key, and the machine dials up the ISP that the machine was purchased from. Software on the back end automatically configures the machine with one class C router address, a process which normally takes an ISP about five hours, according to Whistle. Users can then add as many email clients as they need.

    The InterJet supports LAN file sharing for Mac OS, Windows 95 and NT systems, and comes with Eudora Light, Microsoft Internet Mail, Netscape Navigator, and Web publishing software that automatically creates a Web page and drop box for each user. For businesses wanting to communicate with customers, an email mailing list manager and Apache Web server software are provided.

    An LCD display with a touchpad on the front shows the status of the connection as well as other information, and there is a built-in power backup supply. Diagnostics can normally be run from the ISP, but the machine also has out-of-band management modem access.

    "It's a very nice drop-in box...for a company that's not technically savvy," said Clay Ryder, a market analyst with Zona Research. "For light- to moderate-duty enterprises, its plenty (fast)," added Ryder. He feels there is a market for the InterJet, considering that the same services usually cost upwards of $10,000.

    While ISPs will initially sell many of the devices with 28.8-kbps dial-up connections, Ryder says many customers will upgrade to ISDN and frame relay connections.

    "If we do our job right, Internet connectivity will be as important as having a laser printer and fax machine," Wong says.

    The InterJet is slated to be in volume production in November, and Whistle says they hope to have some large manufacturing partners on board in the coming months.