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VEG OFFERS PORTABLE WEB ACCESS, PORTAL SITE
"Virginconnect" Not As Exciting Or Explicit As It Sounds
Taking marketing into the 21st century, the Virgin Entertainment Group will offer its customers branded portable Internet devices that allow the retailer to serve as both access provider and portal. Users will be able to access Virginconnect, which is amazingly not a porn site at all, but a private portal for surfing and shopping, complete with "convenience keys" that link directly to sites that, in the company’s own words, "complement Virgin customers’ lifestyles." Whatever that means.

Developed in a joint venture with New York-based Internet Appliance Network (IAN), the machines, which VEG will rent to the customers for $50 per year, will offer free Web access and e-mail via a 56k modem. After renting for three years, consumers can keep the device, which are valued at about $650 apiece now and, after three years, will be as useful as a ColecoVision video game system.

Potential consumer guinea pigs must be 18 or older and must fill out an online application. The application requires consumers to answer questions about— among other things—income, education, marital status, Internet usage and music. Like any good dealer, VEG will offer the first year free to the first 10,000 qualified applicants.

According to Dave Alder, senior VP/GM of Virgin’s e-commerce business in the U.S., the devices will monitor how long users are active, how they use the Virgin Megastore online site and what other sites they visit. Punishment will, of course, be doled out if the Megastore is not used properly.

Alder says customer privacy is of utmost importance and that e-mail addresses will not be shared with third parties. "However," he added, "we will spam the shit out of them."

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