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Technology / AI and automation

COM ONE SET TOP BOX IN FRENCH TRIALS FOR MINITEL REPLACEMENT

Consumer networking specialist Com One SA has launched its SurfTV Plus set-top box onto its home market in France, positioning it as the future replacement for Minitel but also pushing web browsing, email, fax and hands free telephone functions. The company says France Telecom SA is currently evaluating the box in 750 homes in three cities as a replacement for the aging Minitel terminal-based devices. It expects trials to be expanded to 25 cities over the next six months with a final decision expected in the fourth quarter of 1998. Com One sees its device as a universal internet browser for the mass consumer market and says it is aimed at people who are fed up with the computer, claiming easier internet access and a more consumer-friendly interface. The box is controlled by a standard remote control unit and is based around a 133MHz Cyrix Media GX processor with 8Mb RAM and 7Mb flash memory for future software upgrades. It runs the QNX real-time operating system from QNX Software Systems Inc, with Spyglass Inc’s Device Mosaic embedded web browser (CI No 3,208). SurfTV Plus runs over current PSTX, ISDN and Ethernet networks, and should support Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line when it becomes available, claims Com One. Its own proprietary video compression plug-in, which it says operates alongside JPEG and MPEG, is included, enabling 50Mb files to be compressed down to around 400kilobytes for delivery of real time video and data. Com One envisages a number of business applications in vertical markets such as traffic monitoring services and closed circuit TV monitoring, and plans to distribute the technology free to French broadcasters for sending compressed TV listings information. The current box supports Java Script, but a full Java compliant version is due in March next year, along with Real Video support. The company is also offering an optional infrared keyboard and a smart card reader for e-commerce functions. Future options, due in the first quarter of next year, include a video- conferencing/monitoring function and a Digital Video Disk player. Com One envisages selling the boxes to France Telecom and internet service providers who will then offer them as a bundle to rent or buy at a subsidized price as a means to push their own on-line services. The cost to end users is expected to be less than $400. The French firm envisages the main markets to be France and the Nordic countries initially, followed by Germany and the UK. Com One sales director Philippe Mate says its currently talking to Telia Sweden, Telecom Italia, Spanish operator Telefonica SpA and French TV giant Canal Plus. The company says it will announce deals with internet service providers next year. Com One made revenues of $60m in 1996, and announced the opening of a US subsidiary based in Atlanta, Georgia, to establish sales channels in North and South America.

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CBR Staff Writer

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