Budget PC makers eMachines has teamed with Microsoft to create a new MSN Companion device, a Windows CE-based Internet terminal that comes with a full keyboard and mouse, a monitor, and a 56 Kbps modem. The MSN Companion by eMachines, as the device is called, will allow users to connect to Hotmail, the World Wide Web, and other Internet-based services without the cost and complexity of a full PC. And it's attractive to boot: The small MSN Companion sports an iPAQ-like wedge shape, and its USB-based keyboard and mouse are full-sized and fully functional. With an estimated price of $350 to $400, the machine might be essentially free (less the price of a PC monitor) for many users if they subscribe to the MSN online service for three years.

"Today more than 40 percent of US homes don't own a PC or have an easy way to access the Internet," says MSN vice president Yusuf Mehdi. "Now with the MSN Companion by eMachines, consumers have an easy and very affordable way to experience the best of the Internet and MSN for popular activities like e-mailing, instant messaging and online shopping." The eMachines device is the second MSN Companion to be released in recent days; Compaq released its own MSN Companion in August. The release of these devices follows demonstrations of prototypes last November at Fall/COMDEX '99.

The MSN Companion by eMachines features a 200 MHz National Geode processor, 32 MB RAM, 800 x 600 output, 16 MB Flash memory, two USB ports for the keyboard and mouse, and a built-in speaker with stereo-out ports. The company offers 15- and 17-inch monitors for the device, which is powered by Windows CE 2.12, which features Internet Explorer 4.0. IE 4.0 for Windows CE includes support for HTML, JavaScript, Java VM, Macromedia Flash, ActiveX controls, and Windows Media Player