PowerChannel's Internet boxes to ship December

If you can't wait to surf the Net from your TV, you'd better move to Manchester

Californian browser maker PlanetWeb has confirmed that its software is behind a scheme that could help bridge Britain's digital divide by giving households without a PC access to the Web... via a television set.

As reported by ZDNet News last month, PowerChannel Europe plans to distribute two million set-top boxes. Each box will be given away free. However, in order to keep online, users must complete monthly questionnaires about their shopping habits and preferences for marketing purposes.

Media group Granada is backing PowerChannel, and the boxes will be distributed through its Box Clever chain of retail stores, starting in December in Manchester.

PowerChannel's chief executive Jay Gambrell believes his company is offering a simpler way to access the Net. "Our product is aimed at people looking to surf the Internet in an easier way than with a PC," he said recently.

Another UK company, Freebox, is planning to distribute devices that will allow surfing via a PC. The Freebox device will also support digital television and play DVDs, and a company spokesman believes that its £1,100 offering is superior to the PowerChannel device. "Our box has much greater multimedia capability," he explained.

Freebox is planning a Christmas launch.

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