Sharp TV to let Japanese users surf the Web

Japanese will soon be able to surf the World Wide Web from the comfort of their tatami mats with an Internet-ready television announced by Sharp.

From next month, Japanese will be able to surf the World Wide Web from the comfort of their tatami mats with an Internet-ready television announced by Sharp. Called Network Vision, the 32in, wide-screen TV is the first of a slew of Internet devices, including a personal digital assistant and "white goods" that the Osaka-based electronics maker will ship this year, an official says, declining to reveal details.

Network Vision is equipped with a 32-bit ARM RISC processor and 28.8Kbit/s modem and will be bundled with Sharp-developed software, including a browser and a front end for an online service called InterTV, launched last month with Japan's Fujitsu, the official says. The device will be priced at US$3100 and released only in Japan.

The unit also offers 3Mb of RAM, 2Mb of flash memory and 2Mb of Mask ROM. The 52kg unit measures 86.2cm x 56.8cm x 53.8cm, houses two 20-watt speakers and offers standard television video-in and video-out jacks. Sharp is planning a monthly production volume of 2000 units and has no plans to offer the set outside of Japan, he says.

By pushing a button on the television's remote control, users can access the World Wide Web through the InterTV interface, which divides home pages into five categories: lifestyle, world travel, world press, guideposts and a TV guide. The guide, called TV-Navi, can link the user to a television program and provides supplementary information about the program, Sharp says.

Though designed for use with the Fujitsu service, the television can be operated with any Internet service, he says.

The NTSC-compatible unit's 640 x 480-pixel (VGA) display can be split vertically, allowing users to simultaneously watch television and access the Internet. For dedicated Internet use, Network Vision is equipped with email software that handles both Japanese and English. The unit does not require a keyboard -- users can enter URLs and email messages via the remote control. To make routine messages easier to input, the unit comes with standard short messages, the company says.

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