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Amstrad product of the century looks expensive to us

Pricing predicated on low email usage

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Amstrad today launched its "product of the century", aimed at low email users - or the rich. Amstrad e-m@ilerAmstrad chief Sir Alan Sugar claimed the "e-m@iler" gadget would take high technology to the high street. The device is a telephone, answerphone, fax, personal organiser and monitor, with email facilities, all rolled into one. Its pull will undoubtedly lie in its shop price - £79.99. Sir Alan told journalists in London that the company would sell the hardware at below cost, but would gain revenues from advertising and call charge revenue. It was revealed that users will have to pay 12p for every emailing "session". This will let them receive as many emails as they please. But there will be an additional cost of 12p for every email sent. So someone replying to an average of just ten emails per day would pay around £1.40 per day (once you roll in the VAT), or £42 per month. Then there's the usual online call charges – which should be low as people will write emails offline. All told this could add about £150 per month to their quarterly phone bill - double the initial cost of the device. Users will also have to sign up to Amserve, Amstrad's ISP service. This Amstrad subsidiary, together with BT, will cream off the call charge profits. Ian Sanders, Amstrad product manager, said the e-m@iler would be aimed at users with "very low usage". He said the target audience would be young people who had a PC at work, but didn't want to splash out for one at home. Sir Alan suggested the company would also target the machine at the non-PC savvy British masses. "It's so easy to use. As long as you've got two fingers you can send email." The gadget, which does not offer Web surfing abilities, is said to be "futureproof" as the technology in it will be updated when punters go online. Software upgrades will be downloaded automatically, making it a product "to sit in the home for a long time", Sir Alan said. It can store up to 700 contact details in its address book, and includes a portable "pocket docket" organiser. It will also have a caller identifier to show users when they have email. Amstrad said it expected to sell one million units to British homes in the next two years. It will have to compete with email-able TVs, but Sir Alan said he was not a great believer in the set-top for Internet capabilities, describing it as "a dumb box". Revenues will also come from advertising as users will get tailor-made ads on their screens. "We've thrown everything in, including the kitchen sink," said Sir Alan. The first 500 trial e-m@ilers are available in Dixons from today. They are expected to be available in volume in three weeks' time.® Related Stories Amstrad leaks like leaky thing over 'Web phone' launch Amstrad doubles profit Internet TV, M@ilTV prepare to do battle

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