Box That Links You to the Net; TELEVISION: Slimline Version of Internet Will Provide Straightforward Services at Low Cost

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 19, 2001 | Go to article overview

Box That Links You to the Net; TELEVISION: Slimline Version of Internet Will Provide Straightforward Services at Low Cost


Byline: MANJIRI KULKANI

FOR those people to whom PCs are an anathema, set-top boxes will be their key to a world of information.

With sales of PCs falling for the first time since 1981, and internet access figures rising all the time, it is clear that there is something taking their place.

A revolution is under way in the way that the great majority of people are likely to access the World Wide Web.

Although it will be a slimline version of the internet, it will mean the most popular services and facilities will be provided at a very low cost.

They are targeted at mass market consumers, not the producers.

Those who use their computers for work, or instant chat, for music downloads or for anything more complex than the instant, would be far better off sticking with the PC in the corner of the room.

Internet users who do not want the complications of the Net, but would like many of the straightforward services that are available through it, are the target audience for the booming industry which has its eye on the future.

Home-shopping, electronic gaming and e-mail from the comfort of your sofa is something even technophobes will find hard to resist.

Although to the technologically minded, set-top boxes are very much a layman's interactivity, the relative low cost of the option is likely to make it one of the most popular means of accessing internet services.

The modem that comes with many of the boxes currently on the market is a slow 28K, but for the uncomplicated, brightly coloured software it uses, this is unlikely to concern sofa surfers.

But for the more experienced surfer, they are likely to find themselves unfulfilled and frustrated.

You cannot download complex attachments or the MP3 files for which many people have home computers.

But set-top boxes even now offer television-related services that PC owners cannot get their hands on.

The BBC reported earlier this year that more than 4.5m viewers used the interactive services they offered to enhance viewers' experience of watching Wimbledon and the Open golf.

And homeowners who receive a set-top box with NTL's service can order flowers or pizza and send e-mails while the television picture remains on screen.

It has to be the ultimate in marketing to the masses. Television is now a tool to be exploited, having already marked out its territory in millions of living rooms. …

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