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The return of the internet fridge (sort of)

Five years ago, LG combined a refrigerator with a PC and it was a colossal flop. Now Whirlpool is taking its shot, albeit with a somewhat different approach.

Shown at the Digital Experience event during CES in Las Vegas, Whirlpool's GD5VVAXT fridge ($1,999) allows owners to hang a laptop, digital photo frame or iPod dock in modules on the left door panel. These modules have what they call a "centralpark" connection that attaches to a power outlet on the top of the left door panel.

The company says that 30 percent of laptop, photo frame and digital music player owners use these devices in the kitchen. Putting them on the fridge saves space and centralises them in one location, the company says.

Modules with the 'centralpark' connection can be used interchangeably, and can be easily removed. The first of these modules contained the 8in CEIVA Digital Photo Frame ($249) and is currently available at retailers in the US. On Sunday, the company demonstrated modules that included the Clio Vu web tablet, Cozi family organisational software, Brandmotion iPod speaker system and the Quartet Qnote Message Center. Prices were not announced for the new products and modules, except for the software, which is free.

The Clio Vu is a convertible tablet computer that the company said can be used to clear refrigerators of sticky notes, traditional notepads and calendars, while keeping shopping lists and schedules organised. Equipped with Wi-Fi, the laptop can be removed easily from its module and used as a traditional notebook or, using the touchscreen, or handwriting device can be used directly on the fridge to update their schedules and keep track of their household activities. It can also be used to watch movies or browse the web.

Cozi is a free software and a web service includes the Cozi Shopping List feature, which allows owners to add items then receive the list as a text message on their mobile phone, when away from home.

The Quartet Qnote Message Center is for the less digitally inclined. The message centre is made of tempered glass and a dry-erase writing surface and ambient surface illumination.

Brandmotion's iPod speaker system can also be attached to the refrigerator. Basically a docking station, it four large membrane-type buttons for easy use and cleanup. The docking station will hold any size iPod and is designed to withstand the frequent opening and closing of the freezer door.

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