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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Time for plug and go internet?
Nokia's new media terminal Nokia
Nokia's new gadget offers digital TV, video recording, games and internet access
By BBC News Online's Ivan Noble in Hanover

The internet could be the most significant development in modern communications, but it is rarely an aesthetic pleasure to use.

From the dreadful howl of the connecting modem to the PC's dull beige box and flickering screen, it is hard to believe that design was ever uppermost in the minds of those who brought the medium to our desktops.

But now European communication giants Ericsson and Nokia are showing two new devices at CeBIT in Hanover which aim to make the net easier to use.

Ericsson's H100 internet radio is a cheerfully coloured table-top box designed to make internet-based audio services as easy to use as conventional radio.

Serving the haves

Users can listen to any radio station around the world, provided it has a web stream, or they can stick to sounds from Ericsson's tie-up deal with MTV and customise their own play lists.

Ericsson's internet radio Ericsson
Customise your play lists on an Ericsson radio
The unit is very definitely something for the digital haves, rather than the have-nots: it needs a broadband connection to work.

Lars Lindberg, Ericsson's vice-president of home communications, is unapologetic: "We're still talking about a substantial section of the population in Europe."

The number of broadband users in Europe will reach double-figure millions within the next three years, he told BBC News Online.

Ericsson's box uses a Bluetooth wireless link to reach the broadband internet connection, so it comes without the mass of wiring spaghetti normally associated with internet audio.

PC in disguise?

Nokia's product, the Nokia Media Terminal, offers digital television, internet access and video recording.

Inside the box are most of the components of a conventional PC, including an Intel processor and a hard disk. But the outside looks nothing like a PC - evidence of the apparent identity crisis is confined to the socketry on the rear panel.

The remote control unit is much like the one on any normal video recorder, but flips over and turns into a keyboard for e-mailing.

Nokia says the unit will transform a family television, play games and connect to cameras and stereos, too.

Both the Nokia and Ericsson units are due on the market later in the year.

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