UPDATE: 3COM announced on March 20 that it would discontinue it's Audrey product, just after this story went to press.
3Com says it expects to sell up to 20,000 of its new "Audrey" web devices in the first year after it arrives in New Zealand this winter.
Named after the 50s film star Audrey Hepburn, the retro-looking device already sells for about $US500, suggesting a retail price of about $NZ1000 to $NZ1200 here.
3Com New Zealand country manager Patrick Carson says the device is aimed at the consumer market. The company hopes of sales to 10% of all internet users. "It's new and different, a first-generation product, a one-upmanship type of product," he says.
Branded a "residential internet access device", Audrey features a 16cm x 12cm colour touch screen, a wireless keyboard and a tuning dial to access up to 12 preset websites. The device can also receive and send emails, handle voicemail and messages handwritten on a stylus, and internet radio. The test model worked using Telecom's permanently available JetStart ADSL service.
3Com also sees a market in people wanting to send and receive emails and surf the web without the expense, bulk or complexity of a PC. Pastel colours and retro design should also appeal to householders, it says.
Carson says retail chains like Harvey Norman have shown much interest in the device and are likely to stock it. In the US, one retailer wanted 5000 models straight away, he says.
3Com expects wireless versions to appear in the months after the launch of Audrey in June or July.