Digital TV different beast from home PC

Europeans are anxiously awaiting the launch of digital television so they can surf the Net, shop online and bank from home, but IDC Research's Australian and New Zealand manager, Graham Penn, is less than impressed. 'Don't believe it,' says Penn, who doesn't think the advent of digital TV will impact on the home PC market in the near future.

Europeans are anxiously awaiting the launch of digital television so they can surf the Net, shop online and bank from home, but IDC Research's Australian and New Zealand manager, Graham Penn, is less than impressed.

"Don't believe it," says Penn, who doesn't think the advent of digital TV will impact on the home PC market in the near future.

Research from US-based Jupiter Communications indicates that nearly 20% of UK households will be able to access TV-based interactive services by 2002 and that almost a third of Britons will be willing to pay for interactivity on their TV sets.

But Penn has a very straightforward, logical reason why this is unlikely to impact on the home PC market.

"While it's possible to technically do it, it's very hard to do while everyone else is watching the news or their favourite soaps." Penn says TV watching is a passive activity, hence "viewers", whereas surfing the Net requires input from the "user".

"Sure, if you put it in every TV set then it's going to be used, but who's going to buy another digital TV when you could buy a PC for less money and do the same things?"

That's a sentiment echoed by Kevin Klein, Compaq's consumer marketing mana-ger. He believes the trend could go even further the other way, with the PC replacing the TV in many situations. DVD would be one example of this movement.

"There is a lot of interest from consumers in the ability to incorporate television into the PC technology." Klein believes that by Christmas next year PCs with the ability to integrate some of the functions of tele-vision will be available. Whether consumers use that ability or not is another matter.

"It's similar to something we used to do with Presarios — we would bundle a phone centre with the PCs." Users could make phone calls or use the PC as a voicemail facility. But many customers didn't want to use the system, and the function was dropped.

"Customers differentiate between those two functions and a lot of customers might not have been comfortable using their PC as a phone." Klein believes the same could be true of TV and the PC. Just because they both have a screen doesn't mean they're interchangeable.

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