Xtra looks to non-PC devices for next wave of Internet customers

Xtra is looking to a new wave of non-PC access devices to help fuel the next wave of of ISP business. Telecom Internet Services chief Bob Smith says his group has been 'spending a lot of time talking to IT suppliers, the big players in the market, about where they're driving their architectures' and he regards it as vital that Xtra is positioned to serve a new kind of Internet customer.

Xtra is looking to a new wave of non-PC access devices to help fuel the next wave of of ISP business.

Telecom Internet Services chief Bob Smith says his group has been "spending a lot of time talking to IT suppliers, the big players in the market, about where they're driving their architectures" and he regards it as vital that Xtra is positioned to serve a new kind of Internet customer.

"Our vision is that we will start to see a range of access devices out there - WebTVs, NCs, PCs, the whole spectrum," says Smith, "particularly as we see the next wave of customers, who have not had as much exposure to PCs as the current user base. They will demand simpler devices that are more robust, easier to use and more targeted."

"We see those coming into the marketplace in the foreseeable future, and that will be a key element to the growth of the market. We're watching that with a lots of interest."

One thing the Internet Services Group (ISG) will not be doing, says Smith, is selling or even renting access devices - "that's not part of our core competency."

Any move to diskless access devices, such as WebTVs and NCs, would create a new role for ISPs - that of remote file storage - and Smith concedes that "it's important that our architectures accomodate those products - it's not only us, it's the whole market, in terms of home shopping and that sort of thing."

Newly-appointed communications and access business manager Peter Hutterli says that changes to ISPs' technical demands will be forced by "not just by the simple storage of email and files, but also the growth in the Web hosting business as well, which means that large ISPs will run extremely large data warehouses. We'll holding a lot of corporate and customer information."

Web hosting seems likely to be a major part of Xtra's new focus on the business market, but Xtra's hosting products currently leave it behind even far smaller ISPs, with fewer than 100 business hosting accounts and very basic services.

Xtra now internally refers to a base of 60,000 customers, of whom about three quarters are reckened to be "active" - that is, spending eight hours or more a month online.

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