In the land of its birth, viewdata – in its British Telecom Prestel incarnation – is accepted as a useful service that its here to stay, albeit not one that has ever set the world alight. In several other countries, however, most notably France, West Germany, the Netherlands, and one or two in the Pacific, the concept and the service have been pursued much more enthusiastically. But compared with its reception in the US, viewdata looks a resounding success even in the UK. In the US, more viewdata – or videotex – systems and trials have closed down than are currently operating, and it is into the face of that kind of apathy that IBM and Sears Roebuck & Co are bravely preparing to launch their battered Trintex service next year. Battered even before its birth, because the third member of the trinity that gave the venture its name, CBS Inc, has already dropped out. Nevertheless, reports Microbytes Daily, officials involved in the Trintex on-line information and marketing service say that it really will be switched on in 1988. Harry Smith, vice-president for product and commercial development, told an information industry meeting the other day that the service will debut in a limited number of major US cities early next year. Smith said Trintex will be broadly transactional, encouraging interactive use by consumers for such things as shopping, banking, and travel planning. He said major retailers are planning to offer goods via Trintex and announced that Dow Jones & Co and USA Today will supply financial and general news to subscribers. He also said th e text-only service will offer editorial content with a point of view and let users ask questions to on-line experts in various fields. He also revealed that America’s David Coleman, sportscaster Howard Cosell, as well as showbiz guruette Marilyn Beck, and Omar Sharif – no, not on movies but on his bigger passion, bridge, have agreed to participate in the project. Trintex will be aimed at owners of fairly powerful PC-DOS computers, and 1,200bps transmission will be the lowest speed offered, Smith said. He called the system’s user interface intuitive and said news and features would be organised in short bursts of information. Trintex will cost a flat monthly fee. Smith would not specify the price but called it comparable to what you would expect to pay for your newspaper or basic cable service. Asked why he thought Trintex would succeed where others, including media giant Knight-Ridder, have failed, Smith said the company’s planning and research have given it a good understanding of what consumers really want. He would not comment on reports that backers have spent close to $250m preparing the service for its commercial release since its formation in 1984.
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