Startup first out with TV/Web browser

A Silicon Valley startup has beaten the big boys by building a TV-cum-Web browser.

WebTV Networks demonstrated its new product yesterday and revealed that Sony and Philips Consumer Electronics will sell machines that tap its technology from September. Analysts said that the products could garner big Xmas sales for Net 'wannabes' if it hits its rumoured sub-$400 price tag.

The WebTV system is based on an Integrated Device Technology 112MHz CPU and uses a standard 33,600bps modem and remote control. Users switch from TV to Web by clicking a button on the remote, and can then browse or send/receive E-mail. The company even claims to have overcome the tricky problem of TV's low resolution through software.

However, the design isn't without hitches. For one thing, it uses its own browser that doesn't support Java. Also, it doesn't run Dos or Windows so access to the huge base of PC software is out of the question.

The WebTV is expected to be the first of a rash of systems that should quickly offer a clue as to whether the home computer system can break the 'Wintel' hegemony.

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