Comdex Fall, Las Vegas: Panasonic shows Phone/Net access device

Martin Veitch live from Comdex, Las Vegas

Panasonic gave users a glimpse of the future at the Comdex show this week, demonstrating a prototype of a telephone that can connect users to the Internet.

The Japanese giant teamed up with Diba, a Californian startup dedicated to bringing hi-tech functions to the home, by showing a phone with a 3-inch x 2-inch monochrome LCD that lets users browse the text portion of the Web and send e-mail at the touch of a connected keyboard or via a telephone keypad. The design is intended to provide a familiar working environment for techno-phobes.

The device doesn't need to be connected to a PC to work and, to speed operations, has a set of speed buttons for handling e-mail messages and provides an electronic address book.

Panasonic said pricing will be close to that of a high-end telephone but wouldn't provide details of a likely release date for the product.