For the befuddled computer user who has ever dreamed of being able to simply plug in a new PC and start using it, Mark Biegel may finally have the answer.
Biegel, president of Mesa-based Plexera LLC, claims to have invented “the easiest PC you’ll ever use” and began shipping production units in December.
Called the EyeCom Digital Lifestyle PC, it has only one cord — the power cord — coming out the back. Everything else is handled wirelessly including the Internet connection and keyboard. The user controls the computer simply by touching on-screen button labels.
Want to go on the Internet? Just touch the button that says “surf Web.” Get e-mail messages? Touch the button that says “e-mail.” Watch TV? Press the “TV” button and the machine functions as a television.
No mouse is needed because the computer’s functions are controlled by using the touch screen. The machine has only three ports — for power, the wireless Internet connection and a USB port for peripherals such as a printer.
The features are bundled into a physical unit that is only 1 3 /4 inches deep and about 14 inches by 14 inches in height and width. The unit includes a liquid-crystal-display screen, stereo speakers, CD and DVD players, CD recorder and media card reader to display photos.
A separate wireless keyboard is included for typing letters and e-mail messages.
The company preloads each machine with software custom-designed for the individual customer. For example, engineers will load in the customer’s favorite recipes or most-used telephone numbers. Also, the machine can be programmed for easy online bill paying.
“We are trying to react to the nontechnical segment of the market,” Biegel said. “We want mom or grandma to be able to just walk up to the unit and start using it by touching the screen.”
The one capability it doesn’t have is playing video games, although it can be used for simple online gaming.
“Video gaming requires a high-power processor with cooling fans that can be noisy,” Biegel said. “We wanted something that could go in the kitchen that is quiet.”
Not surprisingly, convenience costs extra. Plexera’s suggested retail price for the EyeCom PC with custom software is $2,396. A wireless router and modem for Internet access costs extra.
The company offers a subscriber support package that includes anti-virus and firewall security and operating system upgrades for $21.95 a month for one year.
Biegel founded Plexera LLC 2 1 /2 years ago with financing from income provided by a previously successful start-up company he launched that produces automotive integrated circuits for DaimlerChrysler.
Biegel started the new company because he believes there is an untapped market for easy-to-use computers for the home. Instead of designing the system from an engineer’s viewpoint, he asked his wife what she would want in a computer and then designed the system around her viewpoint. Her answer was: Keep it simple.
“Our overriding rule is if we can’t put a function on it that is as simple as turning on a light switch, then we don’t put it on the unit,” Biegel said.
The new enterprise, which has seven employees, buys components from local and Asian suppliers and assembles the final units at the company’s offices and workshops at 2160 E. Brown Road.
Customers can purchase the units online at the company’s Web site, www. plexera.com, or through Family Computers, 2650 E. University Drive, Mesa, where a demonstration model is available.
Biegel hopes his major channel of distribution will be through homebuilders who offer the units as a standard feature in their new homes. He is in talks with several homebuilders, but no deals have been signed, he said. Another possible market is retirement and assisted living communities.
The company is raising $3.5 million in investments, which will allow it to launch the product in new home construction regionally. Later, Biegel hopes to expand nationwide. Biegel expects the company will be profitable by the third quarter of 2007 and to be shipping 80,000 units a year by 2010.
Mesa residents Dawn and John Giles, among the first adopters of the technology, said they put an EyeCom unit in their kitchen as a handy place to keep recipes and calendars, send e-mail messages, surf the Web and watch entertainment programs.
“I want to have access to it all the time,” Dawn Giles said. “I would call it command central. Once you’re using it, it runs the house for you.”
There were some problems networking the EyeCom with their existing desktop system so they could use their existing printer with the new computer, but that has been resolved, she said.