For several years now we've been offered the promise that one day RSN (Real
Soon Now) we'd all be able to surf the Web and exchange emails using a black
box connected to our TV sets.
In the USA, Microsoft has poured a whole pile of cash into its
WebTV operation that
is designed to do just this.
Closer to home, several attempts have been made to launch similar boxes
as a way of getting non-computer types onto the net but to date they have
met with little consumer interest.
However, with the arrival of Digital TV, the winds of change may be about
Sky TV and
TVNZ have hinted that
they're planning to include Net-surfing and email as part of their digital
offerings for use with a regular TV set.
It will be interesting therefore to see whether IHUG's decision to launch
the "Surfboard", a black box and keyboard which Net-enables your TV set, will
I think their timing is excellent. Not only is the Internet now an established
medium but they'll get in ahead of Sky and TVNZ.
The company says their trials indicate that "people with little or no computer
experience have been up and running in minutes" -- and that's a critical factor.
While NZ has excellent levels of Internet use by world standards, those who
have yet to take the plunge tend to be the techno-phobic types who are worried
that one false keypress will launch a global nuclear war. These are clearly
the people such a device is designed to appeal to.
The only concerns I'd have are that with the increasing number of websites
that now carry advisories such as "Best viewed at 800x600 or 1024x768 resolution",
the viewing experience on that 14" portable in the bedroom might be less than
Microsoft have addressed this problem by having their WebTV users access the
Net through specially dedicated servers which automatically adjust critical
aspects of websites being accessed. Unfortunately, according to reports,
this method does sometimes create unfortunate side-effects that produce
Perhaps the biggest thing IHUG has in its favour when launching a device such
as this is their (in my experience) excellent helpdesk. Last week I upgraded
the satellite card in my PC and had difficulties getting the new one going so
(instead of reading the manual) I called the helpdesk.
My call was answered in just a few rings and the problem was solved in about
30 seconds. I wasn't treated like a complete idiot (even though I felt like
one) and the support person obviously understood people as much as PCs. That's
all too uncommon these days where some ISPs seem bent on slashing costs
by equipping their helpdesks with people who can't step outside the flowchart
or pre-written Q&A lists.
I shall watch the progress of this device with interest.
Yes, I know the first edition of the weekly has yet to appear -- but I'm
still working on it.
Hopefully (if current leads pan out) it will include a very interesting expose'
into the astoundingly bad behaviour of a group of local "new economy" company
directors (some of who are also on the board of a public company). Just how
competent and ethical are the managers of some of our hi-tech public companies?
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