May 24, 2001, 12:00 AM

Office Depot offers product to link online, offline worlds

Office Depot will make available to business customers for whom it does printing a system by which the offline world is linked to the online through a code-reader scanning device.

Office Depot will make available to its small-business customers for whom it does printing a system by which the offline world becomes linked to the online world through a small code-reader scanning device. Office Depot announced today that it will make the Digital:Convergence printed codes available in its print centers for customers to incorporate into catalogs, product manuals and business cards.

With the Digital:Convergence system, a retailer can print unique scannable codes, which Digital:Convergence calls cues, into marketing material. The cues contain a URL for the particular product. A consumer who has received a special scanning device-called a :CueCat--that is linked to the consumer`s computer, scans the code. The :CueCat downloads the information from the scan into the computer, launches the computer’s Internet connection, and directs the browser to the specific web site. Digital:Convergence also is making available a portable scanner that will store up to 300 URLs.

Digital:Convergence launched its product last September with Radio Shack, which featured the cues in its catalogs. Since then, Digital:Convergence has distributed 3 million free code readers; recipients of 1.45 million of the readers have activated them. Digital:Convergence says the arrangement with Radio Shack has driven traffic not only to RadioShack.com but also to the stores. Cues also appear in ads in magazines and newspapers.

Digital:Convergence also just reached an agreement with NBC for an audio version of the cue to appear in NBC programs. Consumers whose PCs are connected to their TVs through a special cable available free at Radio Shack stores will receive a URL from the audio cue. The audio cues also can be transmitted through a home’s wiring from TV to PC when the two devices are not close to each other. Consumers pay for the connections to make that possible.

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