Ihug will today launch a new device that lets the internet be used via a home television – the Ihug Surfboard.
The $699 (including GST) Surfboard is not Ihug's first dalliance with internet-via-TV as a consumer service.
The Ihug Super System, which came with an infra-red keyboard was pitched and styled as a luxury consumer electronics appliance and displayed at the Big Boys Toys show two years ago, but proved too expensive to manufacture.
The company has since worked with a range of set-top boxes, including those from the suppliers of the decoders used with its IDTV pay-TV service but has struggled to find one that performs adequately. The Surfboard is similar to the devices used to provide in-room internet service in hotels such as Auckland's Metropolis.
Director Nick Wood indicated earlier this year that the company might wait for a new generation of boxes next year, but the pressure may have gone on Ihug with TVNZ and Telstra's announcement of a digital TV partnership which would involve interactive services and internet access. Although Ihug's Ultra internet service has taken off in recent months, the accompanying Ihug Digital TV has languished.
An Ihug statement released yesterday afternoon says the Surfboard plugs into television sets and "requires no detailed skill to operate". A publicity photo shows a custom Ihug user interface. The device has a picture-in-picture feature, allowing simultaneous internet use and TV viewing, and an infrared keyboard.
Ihug Director Tim Wood says the product has already been trialled in New Zealand and the results were "overwhelmingly positive". He describes it as "perfect for newcomers. It will have special appeal for the many seniors who are increasingly interested in email as a way of contacting young relatives."
The Surfboard will initially be available for sale only, but it is understood it will eventually be available for hire from the Video Ezy chain, of which Ihug is a majority owner.