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AOL unveils Gateway-made Linux Net appliance

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AOL's 'AOL Anywhere' strategy took a stride forward yesterday when the company unveiled the results of its $800 million investment in PC vendor Gateway: a line of co-branded Net access devices. Based on Linux and running AOL's new consumer-friendly Gecko Web browser - for a taster, take a look at Netscape Navigator 6 Preview Release 1, which the company yesterday made available for download - the machines will ship in a number of form factors, including a wireless Web pad, a desktop device and a "countertop" appliance for the kitchen (which sounds not unlike 3Com's upcoming Net appliance). AOL said the machines will feature instant access to the company's online service, so we assume the machines will each sport a built-in ADSL modem. So far, though, AOL has said nothing about the boxes' hardware specification, and with the focus clearly on the consumer electronics market, we don't expect them to make much of a song and dance about it. The kitchen-oriented device and the desktop PC replacement are scheduled for a late 2000 release, with the Web pad following early next year. Pricing will be "economical" - in other words, under $500, said AOL's president of interactive services, Barry Schuler, though we noted his caveat: "In most cases." ®

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