The deal gives Go.com a significant footprint on the I-Opener, a stripped-down version of a PC. Web sites under the Go.com umbrella that will be featured on the I-Opener include ESPN.com, ABCNews.com, Disney.com, Family.com, Mr. Showbiz and Wall of Sound. The I-Opener also will use Go.com's search engine and its online shopping services.
As part of the agreement, Go.com will take a minority stake in Austin, Texas-based Netpliance. Although exact terms were not disclosed, the stake was pinned "around 10 percent," according to Rebecca Anderson, a Go.com spokeswoman.
The deal comes after Go.com announced it will narrow its focus to become an entertainment destination instead of a general Web portal like Yahoo. The strategic shift underscores the difficulty Go.com has faced in competing against top-tier portals. Although it is ranked sixth among top Web sites, according to Media Metrix, Go.com has faced numerous setbacks since its inception a year ago.
According to Go.com, today's deal is an attempt to transform new Web users into brand-loyal users.
"This lets us reach new Internet users and continue to broaden our audience," Anderson said. "This is very much in line for continuing to grow our vertical sites as well as the portal site."
The company is betting that many Internet newcomers will be attracted to the I-Opener's ease of use and simplicity. It comes with a flat panel screen and connection ports for printers and other peripherals, but it doesn't have a hard drive, floppy drive or CD-ROM.
When connected, the I-Opener presents an online service with links to various content and shopping channels, such as news, sports, weather and email. Users can surf within the online service or access the Web.
The agreement marks another instance in which an industry heavyweight has placed its faith in Internet appliances. Companies such as Microsoft, Intel and Compaq have put their weight behind these plans in an effort to expand Internet usage among consumers looking for a cheaper, less complex way to get online.
The I-Opener costs $299 with a monthly subscription fee of $21.95 for its online service.