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Gadgets & Gizmos

November 16, 2000|AARON CURTISS, aaron.curtiss@latimes.com

MyWebKey Keyboard

* What it does: Swaps out your plain vanilla keyboard for a jazzy blue, pink or yellow one designed specifically for Web navigation and multimedia. The function keys--that row of 12 buttons across the keyboard that you never use--are painted over with advertiser logos and programmed to zip users right to the Web sites of said advertisers.

* Price: Free. Advertisers paying for a spot on the keyboard cover the cost.

* Availability: Sign up at www.mywebkey.com

* Manufacturer: Channel Commerce

* Niche: People too lazy to click a bookmark or too naive to know that most of what MyWebKey does is completely unnecessary

* The good: For starters, it's free--which we love as much as the next cheapskate. The keyboard also comes in snazzy colors that liven up a cubicle. If you're a compulsive EBay or Priceline user, the programmed keys can satisfy your minute-to-minute urges.

* The bad: Promotional material asks users to imagine hitting F11 and being whisked off to the Gap or Amazon.com. Except hitting F11 on our keyboard scooted us instead to 1-800-HOTELS.com. Yawn. Before using the keyboard, users must enter all sorts of personal data to register. The company promises it does not release the information but uses it to customize the Web-browsing experience. That sounds an awful lot like trying to sell us stuff based on a set of demographic characteristics.

* Bottom line: We're all for devices that make computers and the Internet easier for everyday schmoes. But we're not convinced MyWebKey fits the bill. The preprogrammed sites are there not because they're great sites but because they paid to be there. If you want an easy way to get to your favorite sites, use the bookmark feature built into Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Explorer.

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