Sharp to Hawk Home E-mail Device

Japanese home internet users will be the initial target of the new Sharp Iprimera, a combination e-mail terminal and printer, as the number of Japanese internet users is predicted to hit the 20 million mark by 2000.

Aiming at a burgeoning group of Internet savvy home users in Japan, electronics maker Sharp Corp. will begin selling a combination e-mail terminal and printer from next week.

The Iprimera, a fusion of the Japanese pronunciation of the words "Internet," "printer," and "mailer," will ship July 28 for 135,000 yen (US$1,136), Sharp said today. The Japanese vendor is planning an initial production run of 10,000 units per month.

The DOS-based Iprimera will offer users e-mail, fax and Internet functions on its 10.4-inch, 640-by-480-pixel LCD (liquid-crystal display). The 37.7 centimeter by 23.6 centimeter by 21.4 centimeter machine comes with a 33.6K bits-per-second modem and runs on a SH-series RISC (reduced instruction set computer) processor from Hitachi Ltd., according to a Sharp spokesman.

A 255-color printer is built into the device which weighs 5.6 kilograms.

Sharp is counting on rising interest in the Internet, and especially e-mail, in Japan to drive sales of the product, according to a release from the company issued today. A recent report by market research firm Access Media International Inc. predicted that the number of Internet users in Japan would break the 20 million [M] mark by 2000, up from 15.1 million [M] in February of this year.

The increasing trend of users connecting to the 'Net through non-PC products may also help boost sales of the Iprimera, Sharp said.

A spokesman at the company said that Sharp does not have any immediate plans to sell the device overseas.

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