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
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
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
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
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