With the almost-daily announcement of new products, technologies, and vendors, the number of Internet-access appliances sold will exceed shipments of PCs by 2002, according to a new report from International Data Corp. (IDC), an information-technology market-research firm in Framingham, Mass. And by 2004 that market will exceed 89 million units, or $17.4 billion, up from 11 million units and $2.4 billion in 1999. "Current online users want access to services in more locations and situations, while many other consumers desire Internet access without the inherent complexities of PCs," says Bryan Ma, analyst, consumer devices research program. "It is clear the PC will not be the only enabling device as both groups find information appliances a solution that can improve their lifestyle and work style." Information appliances, as defined by IDC, are an emerging category of digital consumer electronics that provide low-cost, easy-to-use, consumer-focused access to the features and benefits of the Internet. These include Internet gaming consoles, NetTVs, Internet smart handheld devices, Web terminals, e-mail terminals, and screenphones. "The devices that will lead the information appliance market are ones that take advantage of existing infrastructures and usage patterns," says Kevin Hause, manager, consumer devices research program. "Devices such as NetTV set-top boxes as well as Internet gaming consoles will benefit from consumers' familiarity with the television. Internet connectivity also is making inroads into the increasingly popular smart handheld device market. Web terminals, e-mail terminals, and screenphones should follow in volume, but these devices are only now arriving on the scene."