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Gateway Internet Appliance, Music Player Shipping In December

NEW YORK -Gateway last month introduced a Gateway-branded Internet appliance, a home-component-style Internet music player, and its Connected Home networking concept that would tie these new products to a home PC-and eventually to other communications and consumer electronic products-using the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance networking protocol.

Gateway made the announcement jointly with AOL, Transmeta and Broadcom, all of which contributed technology to either the devices or the network.

The appliance, called the Connected Touch Pad, uses a new version of AOL called Instant AOL, the Mobile Linux operating system and a Transmeta Crusoe processor. The Touch Pad, shipping in December with a $599 suggested retail price, is intended as a supplement to a home’s PC, giving access to e-mail and the Internet from any room in a house, said Gateway CEO Jeff Weitzen.

“We don’t think the PC is the center of the universe and actually think that in the coming years these devices will outsell PCs,” he said.

The Touch Pad functions as an “always on” device, meaning there is no boot-up time. The screen opens to AOL, giving the user access to all of his or her AOL accounts. With its built-in modem, it can operate independently without a HomePNA link to a home PC, but when connected, it’s able to access the PC’s files, including music files, and share the consumer’s one ISP account.

The HPNA network itself uses technology developed by Broadcom and the 10-Mbps HomePNA 2.0 protocol as its backbone. It can allow two people to separately access the Web and allow another to talk on the phone, all over one phone wire.

The initial version of the Connected Touch Pad will link up only with newer Gateway PCs that contain HPNA and other technology from Broadcom, Weitzen said. Eventually, the entire Gateway line will be Connected Home-ready.

Although the Touch Pad doesn’t work directly with PCs from other vendors, Gateway’s Music Player will connect to any HPNA-equipped PC to play back the PC’s music files through an audio system in another room. Multiple Music Players in a house will be able to simultaneously access and play back separate music files residing on the PC. The Player retails for a suggested $299.

The Connected Home concept will be expanded next year with a wireless Touch Pad using the 802.11b HR wireless-Ethernet standard. Gateway also plans next year to launch adapters for converting legacy televisions and stereo systems into Home-PNA networkable devices. This will enable consumers to play a DVD movie on their home PC and view it on a television located in another room, and will be done through adapters being developed by Broadcom, said Broadcom marketing director Adam Stein.

Voice-over-IP phone service will also be possible through the network when HPNA-equipped phones are linked to a broadband modem. The technology will enable a single phone line in a house to support multiple phones with separate phone numbers. This would allow an outside call to be directed to a specific phone without ringing every phone in a home.