Amstrad prepares next-gen e-m@iler

The consumer-electronics firm is cutting the price of its emailing telephone to try to boost sales, as it gets ready to unveil a new version of the product

The price of the e-m@iler phone is being cut yet again, as Amstrad tries to get more people to embrace its device ahead of the launch of a third-generation model.

Amstrad announced on Monday that it is slashing the price of the existing e-m@iler to £29.99, down from around £49.99. This move, the company says, is an attempt to "significantly increase the installed base" of homes with an e-m@iler.

"With nearly four years' e-m@iler experience, the revenue per phone has held up well and we continue to add new revenue-earning services to the phone," said Simon Sugar, commercial director of Amstrad, on Monday.

"However, increasing the installed base remains a key objective in order to enhance the future long term profitability of the e-m@iler business," added Sugar.

The first version of the e-m@iler, which is a desktop phone with a keyboard and a screen that let a user send and receive emails, was launched in March 2000. This was followed in February 2002 by an updated version that added a Web browser, a credit-card reader and Sinclair ZX Spectrum games. Both version charge 12p for retrieving email, on top of phone call charges.

According to latest figures, more than 300,000 e-m@ilers have been sold to date. Amstrad fell some way short of chairman Sir Alan Sugar's target of selling one million units by the middle of 2002.

Even at the original price of £79.99, the e-m@iler was sold at a loss, with Amstrad hoping to recoup its money through services and adverts, and by charging users each time they checked their email.

In the twelve months to 30 June, 2003, Amserve -- which is responsible for the e-m@iler -- made a pre-tax loss of £6.1m.

Back in September 2003, Sir Alan Sugar announced that a "new variant of the e-m@iler with additional revenue-earning functionality" would be launched before the summer of 2004.

According to an Amstrad spokesperson on Monday, this "third-generation" e-m@iler is due to be launched within the next three months. Details are still under wraps, but "big changes" are said to have been made to this forthcoming model.