Thursday, July 15, 1999 Published at 22:55 GMT 23:55 UK
Information-Appliance-on-a-chip. Courtesy: National Semiconductor
By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
National Semiconductor Corporation has launched its much-touted PC-on-a-chip, a breakthrough in bringing low-cost computer appliances to the consumer.
The announcement from the California-based chip maker adds to the welter of support for devices that will appeal to consumers looking for cheaper and easier access to the Internet.
It came a day after Microworkz of Seattle said it was close to a distribution deal for its $199 iToaster PC with Dixons' Freeserve, the UK's leading Internet Service Provider (ISP).
One chip for the price of six
A news conference in London was told that it could also be used in other affordable Internet appliances and Grundig announced it would power its next generation of set-top boxes.
Functions incorporated in to the SC1400's single chip of silicon include a 266mhz processor, system logic, graphics, MPEG video decompression, audio, TV input/output and peripheral input/output. National says this would require at least six separate chips in a conventional set-top box.
Beyond the PC
The iToaster seems like a cross between a PC and the WebTV set-top box promoted by Microsoft. It is a small black box, sold for $199 without a monitor, with a Pentium processor, 2.1Gb hard drive, 32Mb of RAM and a 56K modem inside.
You can plug it into your TV, it has an instant on-off button, there is no floppy disk or CD-rom drive and the Operating System is not Windows. Microworkz saves money by adapting the free Linux OS for the machine.
The iToaster appears to be the "access device" that the Dixons chairman, Sir Stanley Kalms, mentioned last week. He said the UK electronics group would be selling it by the end of the year for around £200.
Cheap Apple laptop due
Other devices around the corner to tempt the non-Netheads online:
With UK Internet adoption already accelerating because of the subscription-free ISP revolution, the fall in hardware prices and increased choice for consumers could lead to a Christmas boom in new users going online.