US telephone giant SBC Communications is to offer its customers a cheap device cable of sending and receiving email in a bid to bridge the technology gap.
For under $180, consumers will be able to order a 10 by seven inch machine with a flip screen that attaches to a standard telephone line, in the same way an answer machine does, to send and receive email.
The email only Internet service will cost less than $10 a month. SBC plans to start shipping its gadget to pilot cities within a month. Weighing in at 2lb it is not exactly pocket-size, but SBC maintains it is still a third of the weight of an average laptop.
"The simplicity and affordability of eMessage will deliver information technology to customers who have been traditionally on the low end of the technology curve," said Steve Dimmitt, SBC marketing vice president. "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," he added.
Dimmitt said one of eMessage's advantages over the traditional personal computer will be its convenience and portability. Users read or type emails, then plug into any phone line and push a button to send new email or retrieve incoming email. The unit also includes a printer port connection for use with most standard printers.
eMessage was developed by communications company CIDCO in the US. Financial details of SBC’s deal to resell the email gadgets have not been disclosed. CIDCO sells a similar device direct on the Internet for $99 plus $99 one year pre-paid subscription.
SBC, the parent company of Southwestern Bell Telephone and Pacific Bell Telephone, said it would first offer eMessage in test cities in Texas and California in September. If successful, it will expand the service rapidly to other cities.
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