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Origami folds eight gadgets into one

Comdex: Nat Semi picks up the pace

One of the IT world's best known shows, Comdex, kicks off in Las Vegas next week. PC Advisor will be there, sending reports back from the Sin City, but here's a look at the sort of thing that might be on show there.

Looking to revive interest in internet appliances, National Semiconductor will show off a concept product at Comdex next week that combines eight digital gadgets into a single, portable appliance weighing less 500g, the company said.

Called the Origami Mobile Communicator, the product was built to show off the capabilities of National Semi's low-power Geode processor (and to stir interest among manufacturers who may be interested in selling the product).

Named for the Japanese art of paper folding, the Origami can be twisted and turned into eight different gadgets including a digital camera, a videophone, a web-surfing pad and an email terminal. It's powered by the Geode SC3200 processor with integrated video and audio components and runs an embedded version of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system.

Internet appliances are typically small, easy-to-use computers designed for specific tasks like sending email or surfing the web. Once hyped as a low-cost alternative to PCs, for the most part they have failed to capture the imagination of end users. Uncertain demand and the cost of developing the products caused some vendors to scrap their appliances this year, notably 3Com, which killed its Audrey appliance and Sony, which put the eVilla to rest back in August.

Measuring 20x5cm, it has a 4in touch-screen TFT liquid crystal display, a built-in microphone and USB and CompactFlash ports. It uses Internet Explorer 6.0 and Windows Media Player, and is wireless with either Bluetooth or 802.11 standards.

Four other appliances based on the Geode chip will be on show this year, National Semi said. Among them will be a portable WebPad from Dutch electronics giant Philips and a desktop appliance from Sageport.

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