Freeserve, the free ISP owned by Dixons, is in final negotiations to distribute Microworkz.com’s $199 iToaster PC system in the UK, according to industry sources.
The iToaster has been designed to look like a stereo component and provide consumers with an cheap and easy way of accessing the Internet.
“We are in discussions with Freeserve, but I cannot say anything further right now,” commented a spokesperson for Microworkz. The Dixons Group, which is about to float Freeserve, said any agreement with the US PC maker was “speculation”.
If the deal does eventually get inked it will reflect a trend that has taken off in the US, where PC makers have been joining up with ISPs to offer bundled services in an increasingly aggressive market place, the aim being to make money on Internet charges and services as opposed to the hardware.
AOL, for example, has just signed a deal with Korean backed Emachines whereby customers will get a system if they agree to sign up to the online service for three years. In Europe both Dell and Gateway have set themselves up as ISPs for their customers.
Microworkz has said that it is talking to distributors worldwide to rapidly get its iToaster into consumer homes.
The iToaster surprisingly does not run Microsoft Windows. Instead it uses an operating system created by software developer Be. The box is built around a 266MHz Intel chip and comes with 32Mbyte of Ram and a 2.1Gbyte hard drive. The monitor is not included, but it comes with a basic suite of software including a word processor and a spreadsheet.
The iToaster, which has started shipping in the US in limited quantities, can be purchased on approved two year credit for $19.95 complete with Internet access. Alternatively consumers can buy the box for $199, plus $14.05 per month Internet access charge through Microworkz.com’s ISP.
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