HERNDON, Va. -- US Order has introduced a new, more expensive screen telephone and announced that First National Bank of Maryland and Banc One Corp. have agreed to market it.
The new PhonePlus telephone is intended to be easier to use than the Scanfone that US Order has marketed since 1990.
But consumers will have to pay $199 to get it, in addition to a monthly fee of $11.95.
To get the Scanfone, consumers paid only the monthly fee.
|Much More Advanced'
"With Phoneplus we believe we have produced a much more advanced, easier-to-use product at a price point that will stimulate demand by consumers and service providers," said William F. Gorog, US Order's chairman and chief executive.
The Scanfone is currently used by more than 10,000 people throughout the country, Mr. Gorog said.
The device is marketed by US Order and the telephone companies Sprint Corp. and Bell Atlantic Corp.
Tapping a New Market
These companies are also expected to market PhonePlus, along with the two banks, BellSouth Corp., and the retail and catalog companies Damark, Hammacher-Schlemmer, and Sharper Image.
Both the Scanfone and PhonePlus are aimed at tapping a new market for information and transaction services that consumers can obtain from computerized telephones with screen displays.
Usage of screen telephones is minimal now. But a range of companies, including Northern Telecom Ltd., Online Resources and Communications Corp., and Philips NV have joined US Order in developing screen telephones for this market.
Some researchers predict that demand for screen telephones eventually will explode.
The Yankee Group, a Boston-based technology consulting firm, recently completed a survey indicating 44% of American consumers are interested in buying a screen phone with an average price of $150.
The Yankee Group predicted that by the year 2000, 25% of all U.S. households will actually own a screen telephone that cost less than $200.
Banks hope that consumers will use these phones to pay bills, obtain account balances, and perform other financial transactions at home.
Telephone companies hope to use the phones to sell advanced calling services, such as caller identification -- in which the name and number of a calling party is displayed on a telephone screen.
Catalog companies hope to use the phones to boost telephone sales. US Order has taken an early lead in this market.
Seeks to Raise Capital
The introduction of PhonePlus comes at a critical time for US Order.
The company is now trying to complete a private placement in which it hopes to get a total of $12 million in additional capital from investors who are being offered a minority stake in the company.
The media conglomerate Knight-Ridder Inc. has agreed to put in $6 million of the new capital, if US Order can find other investors that will match that amount.
No Change in Control
The plan is for Worldcorp., a Herndon-based airline company, to continue to own a controlling 51% stake in US Order after the private placement is completed.
Knight-Ridder hopes to offer stock quotes, news, and classified advertising services through PhonePlus.
US Order plans to eventually phase out its Scanfone in favor of PhonePlus. But for this transition to work, consumers will have to be convinced that the new features on the PhonePlus are worth the added expense.
One of the most visible differences with PhonePlus is the absence of the bar code pad and light pen that are among the Scanfone's most distinguishing features. Consumers swiped the light pen over the bar code pad to pay bills and buy goods from catalogs.
The bar coding equipment will be optional on PhonePlus. With the new phone, users will press buttons on the telephone keypad or a standard QWERTY keyboard that pulls out from beneath the telephone keypad.
More Text Display
Another difference between the old phone and the new is the screen. PhonePlus can display four lines of text, each with 20 characters, whereas Scanfone could display only one line of text with 16 characters.
The new phone also has more computing power than its predecessor. It can store up to 256 kilobytes of data, and is powered by a Motorola Corp. 6800 series computer chip, from the same family of processors used in Macintosh computers.
A Prompting Menu
The Scanphone can store only 32 kilobytes of data, and uses an Intel Corp. 8088 computer chip like the ones found in the earliest IBM-compatible personal computers.
US Order has employed the extra computing power to put a menu on the PhoneP]us screen that prompts consumers through transactions.
PhonePlus also has an electronic calendar and an electronic directory that can store up to 150 names and addresses.