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Web-Ready Units Primed For Retail

ORLANDO, FLA. — Within the past year, Internet-enabled appliances have moved from high-concept prototypes to high-end products ready for rollout.

Among manufacturers with target dates for touch-screen white goods is LG Electronics, which mounted a major majap presence at last month’s K/BIS. The company, which has been offering a line of digital appliances in its native South Korea for the past two years, is scheduled to introduce its Internet-ready refrigerator, turbo drum washer and microwave oven domestically during the first quarter of 2002.

“These products bring to reality LG’s vision of a new class of smart appliances that communicate with each other via a digital home network,” said Sonny Marak, VP sales, home appliances.

Similarly, Haier came to K/BIS with an assortment of networked appliances — including a self-monitoring air conditioner, dishwasher, microwave oven and refrigerator — that is primed and ready for retail. “We’re already distributing them in Europe,” noted president/CEO Michael Jemal. “Although the category is still in its infancy, we wanted to show the U.S. market that we are here and that we do have the technology.”

Europe’s lead in Web-ready white goods was underscored by Electrolux’s interactive “Screenfridge” refrigerator, which was on view here at the Frigidaire display. The unit, which is currently being field tested outside of Copenhagen, features a built-in touch screen, broadband connections and a recessed camera that replaces magnets and paper notes with recorded video images.