Tuesday October 6 12:31 PM EDT Kiosks To Combine Web, Games, Video

Kiosks To Combine Web, Games, Video

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) _ A new company aims to do big business by putting the Internet, video conferencing and computer games at the fingertips of people wherever they have some time to kill.

Kevin Lockerby, the president and co-owner of AVX Communications, wants to put interactive computer kiosks just about anywhere people stand idle _ airports and hotel check-out lines, for instance.

``You can come off the airplane, stick in your credit card and do e-mail,'' Lockerby said.

Only a handful of companies in the United States and perhaps 30 worldwide make kiosks. The market for such machines approaches $370 million to $1 billion, depending on varying experts, and industry analysts predict strong growth.

In 1996, about 21,000 interactive kiosks were shipped in the United States, but that number will be closer to 500,000 by 2003, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan, an international market research company.

The product looks simple: a monitor encased in a black metal housing, with a fold-out keyboard. But hidden in a cabinet beneath the monitor is a custom patchwork of cables and computer components.

AVX says that unlike its established competitors, it builds the cabinets, integrates the computer equipment and develops software to suit the customer's needs. Other ``enclosure-only'' kiosk makers farm out the tasks or encourage customers to find their own programmers.

An AVX system can cost from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on its complexity. AVX also plans to rent machines for use at conferences or other short-term applications.

``This is the new penny arcade,'' said Ernest Holmes, a former Navy technician who is the head computer guru at AVX.

But it's more expensive _ the entertainment costs about $4 for 20 minutes of Internet time _ and customers can do more than just play games.

AVX is a newly formed subsidiary of Portsmouth-based Quality Fabricators Inc., which traditionally has gotten most of its work from the Defense Department.

Chris Ryan, QFI president and AVX co-owner, said the AVX venture is an attempt to diversify into commercial pursuits.

AVX hopes to have $10 million in sales in three years and $25 million within five years _ and ``that's just the hardware,'' Lockerby said. The programming required to create custom applications could bring in millions more, he said.

Newsbit furnished by:

A: NetShift Software Ltd.
A: Hughenden Yard, Marlborough, Wilts,SN8 1LT, UK
T: +44 (0)1672 511 094
F: +44 (0)1672 511 078
E: [email protected]
E: [email protected]

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