Dial I for Internet

Scared of PCs? Here's how to surf the Web with user-friendly smart appliances

No matter how cheap or simple the personal-computer industry makes its new PCs--and many now sell for less than $1,000--they still daunt many would-be users. But a new wave of "information appliances" has begun to bridge the gap between PCs and consumer electronics by bringing capabilities such as e-mail and Internet access to TVs, telephones and other homey devices. Unlike even the least expensive PCs, which are designed for a variety of uses, information appliances focus on a few core functions and usually sell for $500 or less.

Such smart machines were among the hottest items unveiled last week at the...

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