Here's the information regarding Microsoft's new internet appliance from the link mentioned in the above post:
MSN Companion Fact Sheet: July 2000
Overview: In following the vision of providing the Everyday Web to consumers, MSN® is working with industry leaders to deliver the MSN Companion. These Internet access devices will provide consumers with an easy way to harness the full power of the Web and ultimately help transform it from a time-consuming, sometimes confusing medium to a highly personalized, streamlined place to get things done.
Features: Simplicity. The MSN Companion is designed for people who want a simple and affordable way to connect to the Internet, surf the Web, and communicate with others. Users will be connected to the Web within minutes after taking an MSN Companion out of the box. The following are just a few of the features that make these devices easy to use:
* Instant on. With the MSN Companion, boot time is minimal. Users simply hit the power button and the device powers on and connects to the Internet. When not in use, the devices automatically convert to “sleep” mode.
* Preconfigured services. When powered on, the devices automatically connect to the Internet using the MSN Internet Access online service and users’ stored login information. Users are then presented with the vast array of services provided by MSN ® and the Web at large.
* Friendly, intuitive user interface. The MSN Companion features a one-screen user interface, keeping things clear and simple. There’s no need to toggle between views or keep track of different windows on the screen. A customized Start page provides links to the most common tasks and allows users to return easily to this page, no matter where they end up on the Web.
* Activity-based keyboard. The F1 through F12 function keys of the standard PC keyboard have been replaced with easy-to-use activity keys for typical operations such as “e-mail,” “shopping,” and “home.”
* Tours. First-time users can get to know their MSN Companion quickly and easily using Tours, a help tutorial that walks users through different features of the device.
* Agents. The MSN Companion doesn’t confuse users with unnecessary and difficult-to-understand error messages. Instead, animated characters, called “agents,” appear on the screen to provide friendly notifications for common errors.
Personalization. The MSN Companion has a number of features that allow users to customize the look and operation of their device. For example, users can choose from a variety of background designs and customize the font.
* Themes. Users can personalize the Start page by selecting the color, graphics, icon style and fonts they prefer.
* Web Favorites. Users can customize the Web Favorites list by adding or removing Web pages. In addition, the Web Favorites page displays a thumbnail view of each Web page, making it easier for users to identify and select the right page.
* Photo display. When powered off, the MSN Companion displays a digital framed picture, similar to the screen saver feature that activates when a PC is in sleep mode. Users can customize the photo display with any digital photo from the Web.
Communication. The MSN Companion makes it easy to participate in the most popular activity on the Internet — e-mail. The device will include a preconfigured Hotmail™ Web-based e-mail service account so the user will be able to start sending e-mail to friends shortly after taking the device out of the box.
* Message alert. A small light on the device will illuminate when users have a new message in Hotmail, making it easy for them to keep up with their incoming mail. This is similar to a voice-mail light blinking when messages are left, so people will immediately be familiar with the concept.
* MSN Messenger Service. The MSN Companion supports a simplified version of the MSN Messenger Service, Microsoft’s instant messaging service that enables users to hold private conversations over the Web in real time.
* Address book. Users can easily add new entries to their address book by simply clicking on an e-mail address. This feature is similar to that in Hotmail but has a simpler interface.
* Auto-managed folders. The MSN Companion supports the functionality for auto-managed folders found in Hotmail, including Trash, Send, Inbox and Drafts folders.
Rich Internet experience. Microsoft is taking steps to help ensure that users of a MSN Companion will experience the full power of the Web, by offering the capability not only for simple text but also rich animated graphics and sound.
* ActiveX plug-ins. The MSN Companion supports Microsoft® ActiveX® Controls, such as Windows Media™ Player and Macromedia Flash.
Software: The MSN Companion provides real-time functionality, focusing on a small number of specific services. They have no hard drive or mass storage device to store games, files or other applications. However, they do support printing capabilities.
Stability and reliability. The devices are designed with a browser-based service platform and run Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 browser software, providing a rich Internet experience for consumers. Because they are powered by the Microsoft Windows® CE operating system, a standards-based, scalable operating system built for devices other than PCs, the MSN Companion provides stability and reliability. All content and services are provided via the Web.
Periodic updates. Microsoft and its leading OEMs will periodically send updates to the MSN Companion via the Internet, bringing new and interesting features to users and keeping the software current. Users can schedule the updates to arrive at convenient times.
Services: The MSN Companion connects consumers to the Internet using award-winning MSN Internet Access. They automatically deliver MSN services, located on the Web at http://www.msn.com/, and provide users with the ability to surf the Web.
MSN services are designed to help people better organize the Web around their own needs, offering top-rated Internet access; personal communications services; award-winning e-mail functionality; instant messaging, online communities; a Web search service; shopping; and customizable access to news, popular sites for travel, personal finance, automotive services and more.
Format: The MSN Companion introduces a new category of devices. Many will be lightweight and streamlined devices, similar in size to a laptop computer. They are as fun to look at, as they are easy to use. Microsoft is joining with a number of industry-leading OEMs, including Compaq Inc., Acer Inc., Philips Electronics, Thomson Multimedia SA and Vestel USA, to design the devices. They will have many different looks, in both flat panel and desktop form, with each OEM providing unique design and features.
Availability: Beta versions of the MSN Companion were released in early 2000, with general availability for consumers expected in the second half of 2000.
Pricing:Pricing will vary depending on device, with specifics to be announced at a later date. Microsoft’s goal is to deliver a low-cost device to consumers.