Spyglass merger speeds Net devices

OpenTV's focus on Internet pioneer will give it a head start in embedded Web software technology

Interactive television software pioneer OpenTV will buy 10-year-old Spyglass, which helped develop the Web when it began distributing the Mosaic browser in 1994, for about $2.5bn (£1.6bn) in stock. For the last five years Spyglass has focused on bringing the Web to embedded devices. It is currently developing the Device Mosaic browser for TV and wireless devices, as well as the Prism server-based software for transforming Web content to suit non-PC devices such as set-top boxes and mobile phones.

Spyglass technology and services customers include GTE, Microsoft, Motorola, NEC, Nokia and Sony, but commercial releases of embedded Internet devices have been few and far between.

"The embedded Internet is not here today and I'd be a liar if I said it will be there tomorrow," said Scott Sumner, director of European operations at Spyglass Europe. "But consumer broadband access changes everything, whether it's through cable, satellite or whatever. It doesn't matter how big the client is; you need the fat pipe to get there."

OpenTV said the merger would help it speed up plans to offer online chat, email and commerce on television.

Spyglass's nearest rival is Liberate Technologies, founded by Netscape and Oracle as Navio. Microsoft is also developing an embedded version of Internet Explorer.

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