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Kiosks offer gateway to Internet (Las Vegas Review-Journal; 07/12/98)

By Hubble Smith


    Las Vegas business travelers and tourists who want to access computer 
 information but don't have the equipment may soon be able to buy the service 
 just as they would use a pay phone to make a call.

    Mirage Link, a division of Las Vegas-based Mirage Computers Inc., is working 
 on placing Internet kiosks in places such as Strip hotels, McCarran 
 International Airport, the Las Vegas Convention Center and local bars.

    The kiosks contain computers that give users the capability of sending and 
 receiving e-mail, video teleconferencing, surfing the Internet, checking on 
 stocks or getting weather forecasts.

    "The possibilities are limitless," said Jason Tarnutzer, who founded Mirage 
 Computers in 1991. "Say you're at the MGM with the casino in the background. 
 You can send a video e-mail to your friends and family back home."

    The kiosks would provide instant connectivity for businessmen who may have 
 brought their laptop computer with them but can't find a phone line for hookup, 
 Tarnutzer said.

    The cost to use the Internet kiosks, which are equipped to accept paper 
 currency or credit cards, would be about 30 cents a minute. Users can set up an 
 account to bank their leftover time.

    Internet kiosks aren't Tarnutzer's idea. They've already been installed at 
 airports in San Diego, Seattle and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, among others. 
 "This has been going on for about 18 months, so we're just behind the times in 
 bringing it to Las Vegas," Tarnutzer said. "(But) these things are going to be 
 a hit, just like they are in every other city."

    In 1996, the interactive computer kiosk market grossed nearly $370 million. 
 It is expected to grow to nearly $3 billion by 2003.

    A Harris poll reported in April 1997 that 21 percent of U.S. adults have 
 Internet access, double the number from 1995. By 2000, Harris Poll projected, 
 there will be 300 million Internet users.

    Mirage Computers, which has a store at 6280 S. Pecos Road and recently 
 opened a second store at 4921 W. Sahara Ave., partnered with Infotouch of 
 Vancouver, British Columbia, for software.

    Infotouch developed a multifaceted security program called Netlock to 
 prevent unauthorized access to computer systems, especially when dealing with 
 the Internet.

    "The software is bulletproof in that nobody can introduce viruses and you 
 can't crash it," said Hamed Shahbazi, chief executive officer of Infotouch. 
 "You can harm an open computer, but not these. That's why you can leave it 
 unattended in places like an airport or a hotel."

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