Taiwanese Vendors Look Beyond the PC

TAIPEI (06/05/2000) - Low-cost, dedicated devices for accessing the Internet are all the rage at the annual Computex trade show, which kicked off here today.

Although PCs still are the most widely used Internet access device worldwide, Taiwanese manufacturers are preparing for a less PC-centric future with a wide range of more appliance-like devices that are designed to provide consumers with easier access to the Internet.

Acer Inc., the island's largest PC supplier, used the show to announce that it is now ready to start volume production of several new information appliances, including the i-Station, a wireless Internet access device.

Powered by National Semiconductor Corp.'s integrated Geode processor and featuring a 10-inch flat-panel display, the i-Station can use either the DECT (digital enhanced cordless telecommunications) standard -- the same technology used by many of today's cordless home and office phones -- or a built-in IEEE 802.11b wireless LAN module to access the Internet via a base station.

Quanta Computer Corp., the island's largest manufacturer of notebook PCs, announced that later this year, it expects to start volume deliveries of both tethered and mobile devices based on National Semiconductor's WebPad reference platform, designed around the Geode processor.

National Semiconductor also announced that it has struck alliances with Arima Computer Corp. and First International Computer Inc., which also plan to use the Geode in forthcoming Net access devices.

Quanta and First International, together with Compal Electronics Inc., another major Taiwan-based contract manufacturer, were also among a group of investors that in April injected US$88 million into upstart processor vendor Transmeta Corp., which also is targeting the Net appliance market. [See "AOL, Compaq, Gateway, Sony Invest in Transmeta," April 24.]Dedicated Internet devices are now ready for the limelight, said Roland Andersson, senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at Santa Clara, California-based National Semiconductor.

"We are no longer talking about hundreds of thousands; we are talking millions of units," said Andersson.

National Semiconductor and Transmeta can expect competition in the processor supply arena to heat up further later this year, when Taiwan's homegrown chip vendor Via Technologies Inc. is expected to start volume deliveries of several new low-cost processors.

"The sweet spot in this market is well below $50 per processor, so from a pricing point of view we actually see Via as a more viable competitor than Transmeta," said Andersson.

National Semiconductor, in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-721-5000 or at http://www.national.com/. Acer, in Taipei, Taiwan, is at +886-2-2696-1234 or at http://www.acer.com/.

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