Mitsubishi outlines Internet television plans

Mitsubishi has added its name to the growing list of companies promising to deliver an Internet television.

Mitsubishi has added its name to the growing list of companies promising to deliver an Internet television. Initial versions of DiamondWeb, as it is called, will feature a screen up to 40in wide and a single remote that allows full Web-browsing capability, the company says. Users should be able to switch to the Internet much as they would presently switch over to another channel. Mitsubishi expects the sets to be available next US summer.

One analyst has commended the company for being the first to offer fairly detailed plans for an Internet TV, but others question the potential market for such products. Prices for DiamondWeb have yet to be announced, but Steven Tirone, a research analyst at International Data, says a set with a 40in screen "may be a bit too pricey" to have broad appeal.

He contrasts Internet TVs with products like WebTV Networks's set-top box, which attaches to a standard television to provide email and Web-surfing capabilities. "That seems a more interesting area to me," Tirone says.

However, he says, "there's room for Mitsubishi to compete. These will all be niche plays. If you've got the money to buy a 40in TV, you've probably got the money to buy one with Internet access."

Mitsubishi's sets will be based on Motorola's MPC801 PowerPC microprocessor and Microware Systems' OS-9-based David system, officials say. Internet-browsing will be provided by Mitsubishi's handheld remote, dubbed WebView. The three companies will build on Sun's Java technology for the core design, and hope to be at the fore of establishing a standard for this embryonic market.

Other companies which have said they are developing Internet TVs include Thompson Consumer Electronics, Sony, Hitachi and Victor Company of Japan.

Another analyst questions the potential market for such products. "These people are obviously not aware of what works on TV," says Allen Weiner, director and principal analyst at Dataquest. "People developing content for the Web are only just beginning to understand the concept of programming. People don't want info through their TVs, they want something they can veg out to. If these guys are prepared to sit it out and wait til Web developers provide the kind of programs people want from TV they could be successful ... They're just too impatient," Weiner says.

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