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June 20, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:09pm


By CBR Staff Writer

With a supposedly blank check from Redmond in its hand, WebTV Networks Inc has overnight become a much more attractive proposition for the home electronics companies and yesterday Hitachi Ltd and Mitsubishi Consumer Electronics America said they’d begin selling WebTV set-tops through their national retail networks. Mitsubishi had been developing a set-top designed for use with the ViewCall America Inc On-TV internet TV channel, recently acquired by NetChannel Inc (CI No 3,135), but has abandoned that project and will instead be seeking to OEM the most advanced product it can get from Sony Electronics Inc, one of the two manufacturers of WebTV set-tops along with Philips Consumer Electronics Co. Mitsubishi said the acquisition of ViewCall was a wake-up call that made it re-evaluate its internet television options and said Redmond’s proposed acquisition of the company contributed to its decision to go with WebTV. It may re- visit the ViewCall project in future. It’s not clear when Mitsubishi will get the devices into shops but the company says it usually brings new products to market in the fall. The consumer group’s parent, Mitsubishi Electric Corp, has set-top type devices for use in hotels and aircraft systems and is working on new video-on-demand and multimedia set-tops, but not for the consumer market. The company says it will be in the front of the line to get the most advanced and broadest range of differentiated offerings from Sony and WebTV. The Hitachi behemoth doesn’t work at such a fast pace and says it’s still waiting to actually ink the agreement before it can start getting approval to start talking about its plans. It says Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of WebTV was the gating factor in its decision. WebTV is claims 85,000 subscribers, of whom 67% access the net every day. It says the increasing number of partners will drive differentiation in the kinds of devices available based upon its gradually evolving reference design (CI No 3,184). Microsoft’s $425m acquisition of WebTV is still awaiting regulatory approval.

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