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Sunday, November 22, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Webpad By Cynix Is A Product To Watch

Seattle Times Business Reporter

LAS VEGAS - Row after row at last week's Comdex computer trade show, companies from around the globe hawked a mind-numbing array of products. From motherboards to multiplexers, from transformers to touch screens, the volume of offerings was overwhelming.

One of the products that seemed to break through the clutter won't be available for at least six months. In fact the company pushing it, Cyrix, is a computer-chip maker. So it's still looking for a manufacturer to pick up the project. But the company's WebPAD had two things going for it, coming out of Comdex - it had buzz and it was cool.

Put simply, the WebPAD is a portable Internet browser. Users can carry the device around their house to surf the Web and check or send e-mail. The company claims that the WebPAD has the same range as a cordless phone.

The 20 prototype WebPADs Cyrix brought to Comdex look a lot like Etch-A-Sketch toys. They are about the size of a legal pad and less than two inches thick. The WebPAD comes with a pen that allows users to click on a colored, LCD touchscreen. They can either click on hypertext links or type by using the pen on a keypad that pops up on the computer screen.

The coolness comes from pulling Web access away from big computers that sit on a desk, laptops that don't rest too well on one's lap or even televisions connected to the Internet through technology such as WebTV. Instead, browsing can move to the couch, the kitchen table or even poolside with an entirely comfortable three-pound device.

For Cyrix, the idea is to build markets for its low-end computer chips. Cyrix, owned by National Semiconductor, has become one of the leaders in chips with lower processing power that are increasingly used in both smaller and more inexpensive computers. The WebPAD uses Cyrix's MediaGX processor, the same chip that helped spawn the sub-$1,000 personal computer market in Compaq 2100 Presario a year ago.

The WebPAD comes with a charging cradle and a base-station receiver that connects to a computer. Cyrix declined to discuss the price of the device, saying manufacturers would have to figure that out.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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