By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
WHEELING, ILL. -VTech Connect has teamed up with Yahoo for the first time to launch its next generation of home e-mail appliances, which plug directly into home phone jacks to send and receive e-mail without using a PC.
The collaboration reflects Yahoo's intention to deliver Yahoo services to non-PC devices, including two-way wireless messaging devices. In recent weeks, Yahoo teamed up with wireless packet-data carrier Motient to deliver Yahoo e-mail to a keyboard-equipped two-way wireless-messaging device.
Although VTech's two latest keyboard-equipped e-mail appliances are similar to their two predecessors, the new units are Yahoo co-branded and are designed to access Yahoo e-mail accounts rather then VTech e-mail accounts, said marketing manager Kevin Clemons.
The collaboration gives current Yahoo users the ability to use their existing e-mail address and password rather then establish a separate VTech e-mail address, Clemons said.
People who buy the two models also get the ability to use any PC's Web browser to retrieve e-mail, as well as open attachments, which the appliances can't do themselves.
Like their predecessors, the new devices feature built-in address book and calendar databases, but now the databases synchronize with personal databases residing on Yahoo servers. In addition, those databases can be viewed from any PC's Web browser.
The two new products in VTech's e-Mail PostBox series are the pocket-sized $79.99 Express and $99.99 Companion, the latter with full-sized keyboard. Both feature LCD screens to view e-mail, address book and calendar databases. The devices are available online through VTech and Yahoo sites and at brick & mortar retailers, including CompUSA, Office Depot, Staples, and some Wal-Mart stores.
Through the end of the year, VTech is offering a $30-off promotion to bring prices down to $49.99 and $69.99 for the Express and Companion, respectively.
Although they're Yahoo co-branded, the devices don't access Yahoo directly. Instead, the devices dial into a VTech server that reformats e-mail for display on a small screen, strips out Internet header information and speeds up data transfer, said Clemons. VTech charges $29.99 for three months' service paid in advance or $99 for a full year's service paid in advance.
The devices' Anywhere Dialer automatically connects to a local access phone number to avoid long-distance charges, but if a local-access number is not available, the Anywhere Dialer connects to a toll-free number.
The Flash Connect feature enables users to send and receive e-mail with the touch of one button.
The Express model is pocket-sized and can store up to 500 e-mail messages. The Companion model features a full-sized keyboard with a large display and works with virtually any printer, VTech said.
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