i-Opener

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An i-Opener showing the main menu after a fresh boot-up

The i-Opener was a low-cost internet appliance produced by Netpliance (now known as TippingPoint) between 1999 and 2002. The hardware was sold as a loss leader for a monthly internet service. Because of the low cost of the hardware, it was popular with computer hobbyists, who modified it to run desktop PC software without the internet service.[1]

History[edit]

Netpliance introduced the i-Opener in November 1999 at a $99 promotional price.[1] It was designed to be an easy-to-use, low-cost internet appliance for first-time users of the World Wide Web. Access to the internet was limited to Netpliance's own service plan.[2] The hardware was sold below cost as a loss leader, with the expectation that Netpliance would recoup the money lost in manufacturing costs via its service plan.[3] Analysts estimated the cost of the hardware to be $300–$400,[4] and Netpliance cited costs of $499.[5] The price was planned to increase to $199 after the promotional period.[2] Shortly after the device's introduction, an engineer[6] discovered that it used commodity computer hardware. By modifying the hardware, he was able to load his own software onto the i-Opener, bypassing the need for the subscription service plan. Although this disrupted Netpliance's business model, Netpliance initially welcomed these users, assuming that most customers would not be willing to install custom parts.[4] As demand among computer hobbyists grew, retail outlets reported shortages,[5] and Netpliance attempted to prevent custom hardware or software from being installed on new stock.[3] Netpliance instead directed people to their developer program.[7] In April 2000, Netpliance canceled existing orders on its website if buyers refused to accept a $499 termination fee for the service plan.[5] Buyers protested the change in the terms of sale, and Netpliance was fined $100,000 by the Federal Trade Commission in 2001.[8] By July 2000, the price of the i-Opener had quadrupled to $400,[9] and Netpliance left the internet device market in January 2002.[10]

Specifications[edit]

The i-Opener had a 10", 800×600 LCD display with stereo speakers, a 180 MHz IDT WinChip C6 Socket 7 CPU, a single SO-DIMM socket with a 32 MB module, and a 16 MB SanDisk flash module housing the QNX operating system. Connectivity was via single PS/2, USB, and parallel printer ports, as well as a 56k modem.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Edwards, Benji (2015-07-08). "How Many of These Weird Internet Appliances Do You Remember?". PC Magazine. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  2. ^ a b Dunn, Ashley (2000-03-09). "Pumped-Up Appliance or No-Frills Computer? i-opener a Shortcut to Net". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  3. ^ a b Salkowski, Joe (2000-04-24). "Seller of Web Device Gets I-Opener". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  4. ^ a b Harmon, Amy (2000-03-18). "From Geek Improvisers, a Low-Cost Personal Computer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  5. ^ a b c Oakes, Chris (2000-04-07). "I-Opener Orders Reneged". Wired.com. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  6. ^
    • Segler, Ken (2000-05-10). "I-Opener I-MOD Kits". Linux-Hacker.net. Netmake Inc. Archived from the original on 2000-05-10. Retrieved 25 June 2021. Codeman
    • "An I-Opening Hack: $200 PC". Wired Digital Inc. Lycos Network. Wired News. 2000-04-07. Archived from the original on 2000-04-07. Retrieved 25 June 2021. When his order arrived, he tweaked a simple connector cable and turned what was meant to be a closed Internet access "appliance" -- the $99 Netpliance i-opener -- into a fully functional, Pentium I-class PC. He published news of his discovery online and soon others were replicating his work.... Segler has received about 400 emails from system administrators and attorneys -- one from a Cornell University professor -- inquiring about the cable and his work tweaking the computer.
    • Davis, Jim (March 20, 2000). "Hardware hack turns Netpliance device into Linux machine". CNET. Archived from the original on 2000-04-08. Retrieved 25 June 2021. Shares in newly public Netpliance sank today, after an engineer in Las Vegas discovered a way to turn the company's $99 Internet appliance into a Linux-powered PC. ... Las Vegas engineer Ken Segler, who works on slot machines during the day, said he needed only a couple of hours to add a hard disk to his new i-opener and load it with Linux. Since news of the exploit first appeared on the Linux news site Slashdot.org, Segler said he has been overwhelmed with requests for a small kit he is selling that will turn the i-opener into a full fledged PC for about $200 total. He's received 400 orders for the cables needed, and he has about 1,000 emails waiting to be answered, he estimates.
    • "Hack Yourself a Cheap PC". ZDTV. March 16, 2000. Archived from the original on 2000-05-10. Retrieved 25 June 2021. Segler posted his hacking instructions on his website and is selling modified cables for $35 so people can complete the transformation. So far, he's received hundreds of orders for the cables and gotten more than 120,000 hits on his site in just a few days.
    • Jesdanun, Anick (2001-05-21). "Tinkering by Vegas man, others, improves tech devices". Las Vegas Sun. Archived from the original on 2021-06-25. Retrieved 25 June 2021. Ken Segler likes to fiddle with electronic gadgets in his spare time. So when the i-opener promised Internet access without a full-powered computer, he grabbed one and tinkered away. Soon enough, he figured out how to add a hard drive for storage, turning the $99 Internet appliance into a low-end computer that normally costs $1,000. Segler posted instructions and sold upgrade kits over the Internet, earning enough for a down payment on a home in Las Vegas. And he souped up six more i-openers for himself. Now he can check e-mail and listen to digital music from any room.
  7. ^ Spooner, John G. (2000-04-06). "I-Opener no longer a $99 Linux PC". ZDNet. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  8. ^ "Netpliance to pay $100,000 fine over computer ads". San Francisco Chronicle. Bloomberg Business News. 2001-07-01. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  9. ^ Lewis, Peter H. (2000-07-13). "NEWS WATCH; Netpliance Is Betting That Less Will Be More". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  10. ^ "Netpliance quits Web appliance business, slashes jobs". 2002-01-02. Retrieved 2020-11-06.