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"Daily me" device on horizon

Newspapers, already under seige by online services, may soon face another challenge to their businesses: an interactive device with a screen that could replace newsprint.

Newspapers, already under seige by online services, may soon face another challenge to their businesses: an interactive device with a screen that could replace newsprint.

Acorn Risc Technologies, which has been announcing a spate of Internet devices lately, today said it has developed a prototype of an interactive newspaper, dubbed NewsPad, that it contends can replace "inky, soggy" newspapers.

The lightweight device with a touch screen is about the size of an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of paper. It houses a high-resolution color LCD panel that can display traditional newspaper text and receive audio and video as well. A microphone and video camera could also be built in.

NewsPad receives the data from radio signals. A Spanish publisher, Ediciones Primera Plana, already says it testing the device.

"We have taken steps that will change the lives of many hundreds of thousands of people and make an impact on millions of others in the next 25 years," said Tim Caspell, project manager with Acorn Risc Technologies. "The relationship between the information supplier and the reader will be turned on its head."

The NewsPad has many hurdles to overcome, however. The first is price; a newspaper still costs about 50 cents per day, making it a very cost-efficient product. In addition, customers may face delays in downloading the information onto their screens; with a newspaper, you can scan pages and turn them quickly.

Still, the papers can't afford to sit still, the experts say. On the content side, Internet sites such as Yahoo, America Online, and Microsoft Network are literally giving papers a run for their money. Papers are countering with online sites of their own.

No price or shipping date has been set for the Acorn device.