WebTV might be the best known of the ’internet through your TV’
set-top boxes, but another company, Net Products, has beaten WebTV to
market in the UK. Net Products’ NetStation was launched in July in Harrods
and Tempo stores, as well as in the Innovations catalogue, and should have
at least a six month head start in trying to gain consumer interest and
sales. The company, set up by venture capitalist Hermann Hauser, one of
the founders of Acorn Computers, is aiming to get up to 30,000 of the
boxes into UK living rooms this year.
The NetStation gives access to the world wide web and email through
NetChannel, which claims to be Europe’s first mass-market television
internet service provider. In addition to basic access, NetChannel
provides a number of ’channels’ dedicated to areas such as sport, family
UKPlus is the default NetChannel search engine.
The NetStation is aimed at the high proportion of consumers who might like
to use the web and email but feel daunted either by the cost or the
difficulty of computers and wouldn’t normally buy one.
If internet set-top boxes like the NetStation catch on, they should play
an important role in extending the penetration of access to the internet -
primarily the web. High sales of set-top boxes will also bring about a
shift in how many consumers use the web. The move from the desktop to the
living room may bring a shift from a private, information-seeking activity
to a communal, family, entertainment-focused one. There is also plenty of
scope for services similar to those currently accessed through Teletext,
but with the benefit of instant feedback, data capture and limited
Setting up the NetStation is relatively easy, certainly compared to
setting up internet access on a desktop computer - as long as you have a
standard telephone system, as most households do.
Control and navigation is, rather laboriously, through a TV-type remote
control and an optional (at extra cost) infra-red wireless keyboard. The
connection to the internet is still through a standard modem and telephone
Using the NetStation can also be somewhat tedious because few web sites
are optimised for viewing on a TV screen. Unless you have the keyboard,
simple tasks such as online registration can be extremely slow.
The current NetStation cannot access web sites which use Java or
Manufacturer: Net Products
Distributor: Harrods and Tempo stores
NetChannel subscription: œ14.95 per month.