Intel hooking retailers into Net

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Extensive plan lets customers `test surf' Web sites

Consumers will be able to surf the Web at a majority of big computer and electronics stores in the U.S. by August, part of an ambitious Intel Corp. retail program.

In what it claims to be the biggest computer retail program ever, Intel is installing PCs on end-aisle displays in about 2,500 stores during the next three months.

INTO THE NET

About 1,000 high-volume stores will hook up the PCs to the Internet through phone or faster Integrated Service Digital Network lines. The rest will feature software so consumers can get a simulated version of surfing the Net. Intel will expand the program to Europe and Asia in coming months.

Despite the hype around the Internet, relatively few stores now let consumers test drive the Net. Intel intends to change that.

The program is an attempt to align Intel with the Internet and show customers that a fast Pentium chip helps them navigate the Web.

"We've really designed this demo so that the most inexperienced consumer can get on the Internet and experience it and the most advanced consumer can surf," said David Baumgarten, North American marketing manager for retail programs.

The PC displays let consumers try out software, see a demo about the Internet and connect to key sites picked by Intel, including those from CNN, ESPN, Walt Disney Co. and Sony Corp.

Consumers can go to other sites, but Intel installed protective software to keep sex sites off limits.

Retailers pay for the phone lines and pick a Pentium-powered PC for the display. Intel subsidizes the effort through its multimillion-dollar retail marketing funds.

IN-STORE EVENTS

Intel also is training store employees about the Internet and sending reps to do in-store weekend events.

Visiting a store to sample the Web is somewhat akin to visiting an appliance store in the '50s to watch TV.

"You read about television in the '50s, and it's larger than life," Mr. Baumgarten said. "The computer business is in some ways very similar." When consumers try out the Net, he bets, they'll be hooked.

Copyright May 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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