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3Com Targets Modems To Shoppers, Gamers

With a mature modem market to contend with, 3Com has started marketing application-specific modems to attract new customers and encourage others to upgrade their PC system.

The U.S. Robotics E-Commerce and Internet Gaming modems will hit stores this week. The former model will take over as 3Com’s standard 56K offering, but the packaging will have a sticker indicating that it comes with value-added software for e-commerce.

The gaming version is a new SKU that has its own packaging. 3Com is also considering developing other SKUs for specific applications, possibly based on Internet telephony, said Mark Bisaillon, product line manager for consumer analog modems.

The E-Commerce model carries suggested retail prices of $99 for the internal and $129 for the external version.

The unit is a basic 56 Kbps V.90 modem, bundled with e-commerce coupons and a tutorial offering in-structions on how to make purchases on the Internet.

“E-commerce is a place we see people going, but they do not understand why or how to do it,” Bisaillon said, “We need to build up their comfort level, so we’ve incorporated a multimedia tutorial with a glossary of terms and that explains security safety issues.”

To help make Internet shopping easier, a desktop application called eWallet is bundled with the E-Commerce modem. The end user inputs into eWallet personal data such as name, address and credit card numbers, all of which e-commerce sites normally require for a purchase. When the customer is in an e-tailer’s checkout line eWallet is opened and the information dragged and dropped into the form, eliminating the need for it to be input manually.

As an added incentive to get consumers to shop, 3Com is giving away $150 in coupons good for Internet purchases, and it supplies a list of qualified e-commerce sites.

The Internet Gaming modem, suggested retail price $119, is built around 3Com’s 56K V.90 analog modem but has been optimized for gaming with better connection stability. The target audience is the high-end gamer who would be willing to replace their current modem with a specialized device, said Jim Thomsen, 3Com product manager for internal analog desktop modems.

“In Internet gaming you are not sending a lot of data, but it’s important that it get sent fast,” Bisaillon said.

Internet gaming consists of two or more people playing the same game via the Web, so the data packets must move quickly for the game to progress properly. 3Com tests have shown the Internet Gaming modem to be about 15% faster than the company’s standard modems.

3Com is still unsure exactly how large the market is for the gaming modem but expects this introduction to help define the category. If warranted, 3Com may enter in cross-promotional activities with software and game controller vendors, said Len Landi, product marketing manager for North American modem business.

3Com is not concerned that these analog modems will be made obsolete by DSL and cable modems, Bisaillon said. “There is still a lot of life left in analog, probably at least two years, and we are positioning ourselves now for when cable and DSL comes in.”