3Com is in talks with several European telcos, cable operators and ISPs about creating home networking service bundles which include products from its personal connectivity business unit (PCBU).
Last month, the networking vendor set up the division to bring together its home networking, consumer broadband and wireless products. These include its analogue, cable and digital subscriber line (DSL) modems, video products, home networking tools and consumer Palm Pilots.
Neil Clemmons, vice president of consumer marketing at 3Com, said the company would start offering bundled services with US operators and ISPs in the autumn, but because of differences in internet and telephone infrastructure in Europe, similar services may not be available in the region until at least six months later.
He claimed: 'There are differences in the US versus Europe. In the US, there is flat rate internet pricing, but in Europe, there is per minute charges from the telecoms operator on top of the internet access charge.
This is significantly impeding the growth of the internet in Europe.'
Clemmons added that many European phones also do not have multiple jacks that can share the same internet connection.
Although 3Com is holding discussions with potential European partners, he conceded that: 'Much of Europe is barely PC oriented. In the US, PCs are part of the lifestyle. It will be six months before we see any bundling agreements - you have to have multiple PCs in the home for home networking to make sense.'
Despite this, Clemmons expected consumers in the Nordic region, UK and Germany to become early adopters of the technology. By autumn, US customers will have access to a service that combines an internet connection, cable modems and a kit to enable multiple home PCs to share the same modem.
A 802.11 wireless product to connect multiple PCs or notebooks to the same phone line at speeds of 10Mbps will also ship at the same time in the US, costing less than $100.
Last week, 3Com also launched a digital camera that plugs into PCs' universal serial buses for consumer video conferencing. It is the first product to ship under the PCBU's Home Connect brand.
PALM COMPUTING UNVEILS PALM VII
The latest in the line of products to be manufactured by 3Com's Palm Computing was launched last week, with the Palm VII offer wireless internet access for users in New York.
In a phased introduction of the product, Palm VII will initially only be available in the New York Metropolitan tri-state area, which also includes New Jersey and Connecticut alongside NYC. It is expected that the product will be available across the US by the end of the year. No details have yet been released regarding a European launch.
The Palm VII follows hot on the heels of predecessors Palm IIIx and Palm V, and although it offers no significant hardware enhancements from the Palm III, it will allow access to the internet and instant messaging through the installed antenna. The product is expected to retail at a price of $599.
A wireless internet service was also unveiled. Palm.Net allows users to access information from selected content providers using a process 3Com has termed 'Web clipping', which only extracts specific information from a Website, making access times quicker. The service will cost $9.99 per month for limited use, which is estimated at six queries a day, with up to 18 queries a day costing $24.99 per month.
Robin Abrams, president of Palm Computing, said: 'The Palm VII organiser is the first true consumer information appliance, bringing wireless information access and e-commerce in one package'.
The New York release of the device is being seen as an extensive customer trial of the Palm VII. Prices of both the hardware and the Palm.Net service are expected to be adjusted in the next 90 to 120 days, depending on customer feedback.
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