Hoping To Get People There

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There Inc. launched an online service geared toward giving consumers a better online environment for socializing, which the company believes will give people a reason to upgrade their PC and even add broadband Internet access.

Tom Melcher, There's CEO, said the killer application for the Internet is online socializing. His research found that more people chat and Instant Message then send e-mail or just surf the Web. However, most people are not content with the interactive services now offered, he said.

He described There as an immersive online environment where friends can get together to chat and play games. The company has been developing the service since 1998 and has conducted a low-key beta test for just over one year. The launch at CES opens the public beta test period that is expected to last for six months, with the service officially online in June, Melcher said.

"We give people a place to hang out online with their friends, kind of like an online Club Med," he said.

There also announced at CES a partnership with graphic card maker ATI, which will bundle There's software with its cards starting in the third quarter. Hewlett-Packard is also supporting the service and There has inked merchandising deals with Levi's and Nike. There is available via a free download from www.there.com, but when the service launches in June there will be a monthly service fee, probably in the $10 range.

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