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New iCEBOX for kitchen blends TV, Net, DVD player

Hybrid appliance is cable-ready, boasts waterproof keyboard

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. — A company called NadaPC is marketing a compact device that combines television, the Internet and a DVD player in a box that is meant more for the kitchen than the home office.

The iCEBOX was developed by Seattle-based CMi Worldwide and is manufactured by Samsung Electronics. Samsung will sell a similar unit later this year for about $650.

NadaPC is giving the units away in exchange for a three-year commitment to its Internet service at a cost of $21.95 per month and the opening of a no-fee checking account at the Internet-based CompuBank. The units became available Tuesday.

The iCEBOX comes cable-ready and has an internal 56k modem to connect to the Internet. It has a dedicated printer port and an audio and video jack to allow DVDs played on it to be viewed on a larger screen. A video camera can also be attached to turn the unit into a nursery monitor or home security system, the company said.

A waterproof, wireless keyboard is included along with a remote control.

The unit does not have a hard drive or other storage device, although future versions will include a USB port to accommodate peripherals such as a floppy drive. NadaPC says the lack of storage makes the iCEBOX simple to use because no software ever has to be installed and no computer viruses can be downloaded.

Like similar units, such as iPaq, introduced earlier this month by Compaq and Microsoft, and i-opener from Netpliance, iCEBOX is not meant to replace the personal computer, but supplement it.

"This will work in rooms in the house where people won't want the bulk and the bother of a PC," said Jonathan Strum, NadaPC's chief executive.

Several companies have introduced or plan to introduce so-called "Internet appliances," which are designed to provide basic services to people intimidated by complicated PCs. The challenge, analysts say, is to provide consumers a compelling reason to buy the devices or enter into long-term commitments.