Express.com Joins Channels on 3Com's Home Web Appliance

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Express.com, an online retailer of movie DVDs and music CDs, has signed a deal to become the entertainment shopping channel for 3Com Corp.'s Audrey product, an Internet appliance that works in the kitchen, living room or any other key part of the home.


Launched last week, Audrey offers one-touch access to e-mail, Internet channels, an address book, Palm HotSync technology and a household calendar. Described as a digital home assistant, Audrey is the first of the Ergo line of lifestyle-centered Web appliances that 3Com, Santa Clara, CA, plans to introduce.


Associating with Audrey will give Express.com, Hollywood, CA, access to consumers at home and therefore possibly more open to Internet and entertainment options. Express.com also sells video games, consumer electronics and other entertainment products.


"Basically we did it because it gives us first-to-market advantage in a new family-oriented alliance," said Susan Daniher, vice president of marketing at Express.com. "Our strategy is to align with as many of these new products as possible because we're doing these as customer acquisition deals."


Based on research that consumers want immediate access to news, sports and weather, 3Com built a product that it claims is easy to use. Consumers scroll through preselected content on Audrey by turning a channel selector knob.


"It's an instant on, it's an immediate way [of going online]," said Steffanee Taylor, senior manager of business development at 3Com.


Audrey comes packaged with news from ABCNews.com, weather from AccuWeather.com, sports from ESPN.com, stock quotes and financial news from CBS MarketWatch.com and entertainment from Mr. Showbiz.


Partners include Express.com, Beauty.com, CyberBills.com, drugstore.com, etown.com, Food.com, GroceryWorks.com, Peapod, Tavolo.com, TVGrid.com and Wine.com.


"We see the Internet appliance market really as a key growth area for the consumer electronics industry, and we see our role as helping customers understand these new technologies," said Steve Ramirez, vice president of marketing at etown, San Francisco.


Etown is an online service that also offers comparison-shopping and consumer electronics advice as well as a marketplace for those products.


The deal with 3Com "gives additional distribution to our content and additional opportunities for e-commerce," Ramirez said.


A cross between 3Com's Palm hand-held device and a computer, Audrey costs $499 at retail stores for a white model. Online, at www.3com.com/ergo, the instrument sells for $549 and comes in yellow, orange, black and green.


"They're meant to match your kitchen or wherever the nerve center of your home is so that it goes with the decor," Taylor said.

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