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Cidco Alters Marketing Aim With Launch Of New E-mail Devices

With the ranks of Web appliance makers having thinned to the point of almost total extinction, Cidco is pushing ahead with the release this fall of two new e-mail devices and redirecting its marketing efforts.

With the launch of the Mivo 250 and 350 e-mail devices, shipping in September and October, respectively, Cidco will start attacking a different customer segment, add a higher level of technology and, later this year, enter two new retail channels, said William Sole, Cidco’s executive VP, worldwide sales and marketing. Where Cidco, and most other web appliance makers, once targeted non-PC households, it is now actively seeking the PC-savvy. Sole said the 250 and 350 are being positioned as an easy way to check e-mail from any e-mail service and not just as a way for the PC-less to have an e-mail account. On the technology side, the new models have been made cordless allowing the user to check e-mail anywhere in their home.

“With our new Anymail/Anywhere feature the user can now access any POP 3 e-mail address,” he said. Earlier versions of Cidco’s MailStation only gave access to e-mails sent to a Cidco-assigned address.

The Mivo 250 will carry a $149 suggested retail price with a $14.95 monthly service fee and should be in stores by mid-month. The Mivo 350 has a $199 suggested retail price and the same monthly charge. The 350 can support digital imaging attachments that can be displayed on the device’s gray-scale LCD and works with Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 600 and 900 printers. Other types of attachments must be viewed on a PC. No matter which e-mail service the consumer uses the e-mails and attachments are sorted through Cidco’s server and reformatted to properly fit the LCD, Sole said.

Cidco has also created a national toll-free number for subscribers making it simpler to check e-mail from anywhere in the country.

Two primary reasons Internet appliances and other e-mail devices have failed, according to Sole, is their lack of flexibility, and that they were targeted at the non-PC owning portion of the population. Sole admitted Cidco set out using the same set of misconceptions, but while he did not say how negatively this affected sales, he hopes the Anymail/Anywhere angle will boost the company’s subscriber rate to about 200,000 by the end of the year, from the 115,000 current members.

Sole said the company is developing plans to expand its retail base outside the consumer electronic/ computer superstore chains. By the end of 2001, standalone displays for the device could be found in drug store and supermarket chains, he said. He would not say with which chains Cidco was speaking.

“I think this signals that e-mail is now a mass market product,” Sole said.

If these channels are entered Cidco could expect to gain more exposure to the type of people who already are buying its products: women, older consumers, and those with lower income levels.