MEDIA: OPEN - AN EXPERT’S VIEW. Open needs to offer lower prices and a better choice of services, Bob Offen says

I had been looking forward to the arrival of Open for some time and had already visited the interactive TV service prior to the official launch last week. Despite the limited range of services and the fact that most were fairly basic demos, I felt some excitement at the prospect of what would be on offer (dawn of a new era and all that).

I had been looking forward to the arrival of Open for some time and

had already visited the interactive TV service prior to the official

launch last week. Despite the limited range of services and the fact

that most were fairly basic demos, I felt some excitement at the

prospect of what would be on offer (dawn of a new era and all that).



So it was a big disappointment to find that the real thing didn’t seem

to have progressed much further than the demo. It was a bit like

visiting a shopping centre and finding it still under construction with

most of the shops boarded up.



Perhaps I’d been expecting too much. Maybe I’m too used to unlimited

choice.



In comparison to the web’s endless bazaar, Open seems like a small

corner shop which only stocks one brand in each category and always

charges the recommended retail price with an extra charge for

delivery.



It may be great for Dixons to be the only electrical retailer on the

site but I also want to see what Comet has to offer before I buy

anything.



In the long run, the novelty of being able to sit on the sofa and buy

things through your TV will wear off.



The functionality is also disappointing. Navigating your way through the

menus is slow and reminiscent of Teletext. I always seem to be waiting

for the next page to appear. When you get to the page you want, it

doesn’t always do what you’d expect. For example, why can’t I get sample

tracks from CDs or clips from videos before I buy them?



Perhaps it’s wrong to compare Open to the web. Maybe the sheer

simplicity will be important for those people who are shopping online

for the first time.



Open does start with the real advantage of providing the easiest and

most convenient online shopping platform to a potential customer base of

nearly two million.



However, in the future it will need to make much more of this

advantage.



To succeed as the nation’s preferred online shopping route, Open will

need to offer a much broader choice, truly competitive pricing and a

more rewarding shopping experience.



Bob Offen is the chief executive of Mediapolis.



Parent company: British Interactive Broadcasting



Backers: BSkyB, Matsushita, BT, HSBC



Distribution via the Sky digital platform



Interactive retailers include: Dixons, Somerfield, Woolworths, Kitbag

Sports.



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