The kitchen just got cooler -- and it's about time.

The same company that designed a line of grills for a former heavyweight boxing champion who now only wants to "knock out the fat," has a new award-winning product designed to help you chill out in the kitchen.

If you can't stand the heat, you'll no longer have to leave a kitchen equipped with Lake Forest, IL-based Salton, Inc.'s Web-enabled kitchen entertainment system, the iCEBOX.

Tapping the touch screen gives you instant access to TV, DVD, CD, wireless broadband Net access, FM radio, home video monitoring, and other features, all in one under-the-cabinet device.

There's a less cool desktop...er...counter top model, but both come with a wireless keyboard and remote to keep you connected and cooking -- baby.

The iCEBOX brought home the Consumer Electronics Association Mark of Excellence Award for Best Video Component in 2003 from the Orlando, FL 2003 Spring Electronic House Expo (EHX) held Feb. 26 to Feb. 28.

CEA granted the award on the merits of iCEBOX's integrated applications and features, home owner benefits and ease-of-use.

The product is long overdue.

The kitchen has almost always been considered the home's social center where family members most often gather before, during and after mealtimes. Today's connected families require a more functional kitchen with an upgrade from the old under-the-cabinet radios, televisions and small counter top boxes.

iCEBOX's 12-inch touch screen is a tad small but it lets you view or control cable, satellite or Internet TV, DVD, CD, FM and get an earful with a three-way speaker system that includes enhanced bass and passive acoustic amplifying techniques. The screen is also the visual portal to the Internet via Windows CE.NET and Explorer 5.5. Net delivered software upgrades are available for life provided you purchase a model before Dec. 31, 2002.

iCEBOX model prices range from $299 for a stripped down counter top model to $2,300 for the top-of-the-line under-the-cabinet version. Salton can expect the flattery of imitation and price denting competition from other electronic appliance manufactures looking to cash in on a product the kitchen can use.

What the iCEBOX is not, however, is a personal computer.

While it has many of the features of today's personal computers (Net access, DVD and CD read-only, etc.), iCEBOX is not an open system that allows you to install or remove user selected software programs and the owner can't upgrade the hardware or print documents -- unless he or she is a master electronics tinkerer.

While, the entertainment system functions will likely generate most of the initial buzz, iCEBOX also doubles as a home networking controller when integrated with whole-home audio, home security, lighting and broadband connection sharing.

Salton has been careful, however, not to call iCEBOX an "Internet appliance" and load it with the karma of another product designed to be integral with the genesis of the "smart" kitchen or "smart" home.

Six months after 3Com Corp. gave birth to the $500 touch-screen "Audrey," an early attempt at an Internet appliance, the Santa Clara, CA firm euthanized the product because it was too expensive for a technology-saturated market that wasn't ready to pay the price for the limited number of features.

iCEBOX is the first product in Salton's Beyond brand of connected home appliances, but expect more.

Salton, a small appliance designer, marketer and distributor of a range of small appliances under names that include George Foreman, Toastmaster, Farberware, Melitta and Westinghouse, also designs and markets table top, time, lighting and personal care products under names that include Calvin Klein, Westclox and Timex.

With practical audio-visual features, a choice of models in a variety of price ranges, expanded use capabilities, and Salton's niche marketing, the iCEBOX is poised to reignite the under-the-cabinet appliance market, reestablish the kitchen as the home's social center and take a better shot at success than Audrey.

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