3Com's IA Decision: Audrey We Hardly Knew Ye
- By John K. Waters
SANTA CLARA, CA—When 3Com Corp announced substantial third quarter losses
last week the company also announced plans to drop two product lines: the Audrey
Internet appliance and the Kerbango Internet radio. 3Com said it would suspend
all marketing activity on both products on April 1, and would cease operations
on them permanently on July 1.
Because Audrey and Kerbango were the only two products to emerge from 3Com's
Internet appliance division, industry watchers are expecting the company to
disband the entire division, which was created only last year. At press time,
no one at 3Com would comment on this prediction, but 3Com spokesman Brian D.
Johnson did confirm that the company will continue to make home-networking products.
In a phone interview, Johnson drew an analogy between 3Com's experience with
the Audrey and the IA market and Apple Computer's experience with the ill-fated
Newton and the hand-held market. "The Newton was ahead of its market," he said.
"Today, there's simply no doubt in our mind that the hand-held computer category
is a great category to be in. We believe in the potential of the IA category.
The Audrey was a great product that was reviewed fabulously, and we have a lot
of enthusiasm for it. But we have neither the time nor the financial resources
to wait for that particular market to happen. It's important for 3Com to become
profitable right now."
According to Brian O'Rourke, senior analyst at In-Stat, a unit of Cahners
Business Information market research group, 3Com's action could have significant
effects on the IA market.
"The Audrey was the most visible, well-known IA on the market," O'Rourke wrote
in a recent In-Stat Information Alert. "3Com was seen as a leading proponent
of the device segment, and one of the market leaders in this sector. When coupled
with Netpliance's exit from the market in late 2000, it leaves Compaq as the
only one of 2000's top three Internet terminal suppliers still in the market."
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached