NEC to sell motherboard for Internet appliances

Semiconductor giant NEC later this year will begin marketing a stripped-down motherboard that will bring Internet browsing to televisions and Internet appliances, a company spokesman has confirmed.

Pricing for the unit, which is based on an NEC-built Mips Technologies VR4300 RISC chip, has not been set, the spokesman says.

The company expects the board to be integrated into yet-to-be-released, low-cost network computers being championed by industry leaders such as Oracle, as well as televison sets with built-in Internet capabilities, he says.

NEC demonstrated a prototype late last week running Sun's HotJava browser and equipped with 4Mb of flash memory and 16Mb of RAM.

The prototype housed a PC Card slot and ports for monitor, keyboard, mouse, audio output and hard drive, the spokesman says.

Scheduled for delivery by the fourth quarter, the board will hit the market at about the same time as a deluge of bare-bones appliances intended to run applications residing on network-connected servers.

Last week, an industry group including companies such as Oracle, Apple, IBM and Sun was formed to develop a standard reference profile for network computers. The profile is due in August.

In Japan, meanwhile, several top consumer electronics companies, including Sony, Victor and Mitsubishi are developing televisions with built-in Internet capabilities, sources at those companies say.

Acer Peripherals, the monitor manufacturing arm of Taiwan-based Acer Group, in March demonstrated a prototype of such a widescreen television set featuring a 28in cathode ray tube and VGA support.

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