Intel releases details of Web Tablet

Handheld allows wireless Web surfing for US customers, but Europeans are put on hold

Intel has unveiled the first details for its Web Tablet Internet access device, at its Intel Developer Forum in California's San Jose.

The tablet, which lets users connect to their PC and surf the Web from anywhere around their house, will use Intel's StrongARM SA-1110 processor, based on the low-power embedded chip architecture from the UK's ARM, and StrataFlash memory.

Software will be provided by Espial, with its Escape browser, as well as Wind River, VxWorks, Personal Jworks and BeComm.

Intel said the device is designed to increase the reach of a home PC to all parts of the house. The device "extends the value of powerful PCs by allowing consumers to take the Web from the spare bedroom to the kitchen, family room or backyard," said Michael Reed, director of marketing, for Intel's Internet Tablet Operation, in a statement.

Intel first previewed the device at last month's Consumer Electronics Show. Its closest competition comes from AOL and Gateway, which launched a Web pad running on a mobile chip from Intel competitor Transmeta in November. Unlike the Intel product, the Transmeta chip is capable of running standard PC software directly on the tablet. Another similar device is 3Com's Audrey, introduced in October.

Intel plans to launch its Tablet to the North American market later this year. A spokesman for the company said a European version would follow. "Following product introduction in US, we plan to look into adapting it to meet European needs," he said. But he said Intel could not disclose details on a European introduction yet.

While futuristic, Web pads have not sold well so far, partly because they are nearly as expensive as a full-fledged PC. Market research company IDC predicts that Web tablets will account for only about 1 million of the 89 million Internet appliances expected to ship in 2004. Intel is relying on devices such as Web pads and handheld computers to continue the growth of the microchip market, as the North American and European PC markets have matured.

Michael Kanellos and John G Spooner contributed to this report.

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