New Sony net appliance looks like ‘a 1984-vintage Mac’
By Macworld Staff
MacworldJUN 21, 2001 5:00 pm PDT
Writing for Forbes.com, staff editor Arik Hesseldahl is less than impressed with Sony’s new eVilla Internet appliance. “You have to wonder just what the people at Sony are thinking,” said Hesseldahl in his recent editorial, entitled
Ten O’Clock Tech: What Is Sony Thinking?
One thing is readily apparent, said Hesseldahl — the eVilla looks disturbingly like a Mac. Not an iMac or a Power Mac, either — an honest-to-gosh “Classic” Mac like the first ones released in 1984.
“The eVilla resembles a 1984-vintage Macintosh in more ways than just looks though: It also has no internal hard drive — it’s not really a personal computer — rather, it’s just a simplified device intended to offer Internet access and pretty much nothing else,” wrote Hesseldahl.
The US$500 eVilla does have a slot for Memory Sticks — Sony’s answer to flash RAM devices like SmartMedia and CompactFlash cards. And it comes with a pair of USB connectors, too, but that’s about it. And the eVilla even has a tangential Mac-related connection: Powering the system is Be Inc.’s BeIA operating system. Be Inc. was founded by former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée.
The road to Internet appliance hell is already paved with the good intentions of several key players in this market like 3Com, for example, which have already given up on its Audrey net appliance. Part of the problem, asserts Hesseldahl, is that the reality of using these devices has turned out to be disappointing compared with the promise originally offered — a device that cost less than a PC but provided simplified Internet access.
Hesseldahl said that there are several factors at work — the bottom has dropped out of the PC market; the target market for net appliances has grown more elusive than the device manufacturers expected; and consumers recognize that you get what you pay for — in this case, less than what you get with an only moderately more expensive base-level personal computer.
eVilla isn’t all bad, said Hesseldahl. It has a nice screen, for example. — a 15-inch Sony Trinitron tube said on its side in a Portrait perspective. “But it’s going to take more than a beautiful screen to sell this product,” said Hesseldahl.
“If you must have one, better buy it quick, because if recent history is any judge, it won’t be around for long,” wrote Hesseldahl.