Audrey gets axed

Just days after 3Com New Zealand staff were proudly showing off the Audrey internet device to the media and customers, their American bosses were aborting the product and killing off the company's net appliance unit.

Just days after 3Com New Zealand staff were proudly showing off the Audrey internet device to the media and customers, their American bosses were aborting the product and killing off the company's net appliance unit.

The changes were part of a $US1 billion restructuring plan.

3Com New Zealand country manager Patrick Carson earlier this month spoke gushingly of 20,000 sales in Audrey's first year here, following a mid-year launch. “It’s new and different, a first-generation product, a one-upmanship type of product," he said at the time.

But this week Carson redirected calls to 3Com Australia-New Zealand marketing director Michelle Kinna. Kinna says 3Com Australia-New Zealand staff were not privy to information concerning last week’s company restructuring and “many sales managers get over-excited” about new products.

“The market is not ready for Audrey. There’s a lot of companies that have put together internet applications. Some have been withdrawn and some have been ‘about to launch’ for some time,” she says.

Last week 3Com announced a simplified structure, with the aim of saving $US1 billion out of its operating costs by May 2002. The company’s internet appliance division will go, say reports, though the company is likely to continue making home networking products. The Kerbango internet radio device, whose producer 3Com acquired for US$80 million last June, also gets the chop, along with 3Com’s Webcam device.

Kinna is unsure how many Audreys have been sold in the US, where the $US499 device debuted in October and failed to meet expectations, but says 3Com has only two in Australia-New Zealand “for display purposes”.

“It could be a collector's item one day. Maybe we will see it in a computer museum or something,” she says.

Elsewhere in the internet device market, Netpliance stopped sales of its I-opener internet terminal in February and announced mass lay-offs.

Gateway, which produces a device similar to Audrey called Touch Pad, said it was re-evaulating plans for a portable wireless internet device. And analysts say other internet terminals marketed by Intel (which launches eVilla next month) and Compaq have had limited sales.

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