In the near future, the industry hopes these non-PC devices will allow users to connect directly to Internet and stay connected.
"We're no longer thinking of the Internet as a PC," said Jack Powers, director of Internet World for Mecklermedia. "That opens a whole interesting area of applications." Such as a microwave oven that reads recipes from the Net.
Soliloquy, a software maker in New York, rolled out a voice-recognition application that allowed users to search Web sites for some pretty detailed information without ever using a keyboard. Necessary equipment included a $5 headset to issue commands and a PC with speakers.
"I think that the keyboard is a transitional thing," said Nathaniel Polish of Soliloquy. "It's really a holdover from the typewriting days."
Companies like CompuBank, the Internet's first virtual private bank, hope that more consumers will feel comfortable using the Net on a daily basis.
"It's only natural that (consumers) are going to get more and more comfortable with the Internet and want that access regardless of whether they are in their home or the office or 2,000 miles away," said Steven Robins, senior Internet analyst at the Yankee Group.