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Washington DC Feb 15-19.

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For baby boomers - a Communication Suite for PC-phobic family?

This is a crazy idea for the gift-giving season, I know. But I just got off the phone with Landel -- the maker of Mailbug, a single-purpose e-mail appliance for the PC-less (or PC-useless) home.  Wouldn't it just be a crazy idea this holiday season if baby boomers who can afford to do it gave a suite of communication products to their PC-less parents and in-laws?

  • A Mailbug at $129.99 plus $9.95 per month;
  • Printing mailbox from Presto ($49.99 on Amazon til 12/31/08 plus $12.50/month) or Celery ($139 per year if they already have a fax machine) printing mailbox to send them color printed pictures;
  • And two videophones -- don't shoot me, it has a daunting product name--from D-Link i2eye 1000 broadband TV-displayed videophone -- if they have a broadband network connection like DSL, cable modem, or other broadband provider ($179.99 -- buy one, get one free from the D-Link shop)?

Let me add it up for you: $359.97 for hardware. $22.45 per month, plus whatever the lowest ISP charge imaginable is in their service area, let's say $14/month for basic DSL. So let's assume $450/year service charges and $359.97 one time for the hardware. Even if we add $179.99 for another D-Link in the future for adult child # 2. We still haven't matched the price of a laptop and printer combination. So for that price, grandparents get to see pictures of their family pop out on a printer, send and receive e-mail messages and watch the grandchildren giggle during a phone call.

It's a little crazy and maybe unjustifiable (or just plain wrong) math. Lots of gear to avoid a PC. But crazier things have happened.