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July 18, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:48pm

RCA AND NETCHANNEL LAUNCH RIVAL TV SET-TOP BOX

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft Corp’s WebTV Networks Inc is about to get its first competition from the combined forces of Thomson Consumer Electronics’ RCA brand, Oracle Corp and NetChannel Inc. The three have combined to launch RCA’s internet-enabled television, which will be in the shops in September, starting at $300 – slightly below the cost of WebTV’s boxes if the price of essential add-ons is included. RCA has unveiled two set-top box devices, called the NC1020 and the NC1010, based on the reference design drawn up by Oracle’s Network Computer Inc subsidiary. They will cost around $300 and $350 respectively. The first box comes with a standard computer keyboard and remote control, and the second, more expensive device comes with a wireless keyboard. Both contain integrated printer support, which was a problem with the WebTV boxes, manufactured by Sony Electronics Corp and Philips Consumer Electroncis, which have to have an add-on adapter that costs $60. That pushes the cost of the complete Philips or Sony WebTV box up to about $320 in the stores. But like the first WebTV boxes, the RCA boxes are tied to a proprietary internet service and content provider, in this case NetChannel. NetChannel will provide content specifically aimed at home users, plus general internet access for a monthly fee expected to be $19.95 a month. RCA said that was the price, but all NetChannel would admit to was under $20. But NetChannel said it is in talks with the major ISPs. The company was extremely evasive, but we presume it means some sort of interoperability agreement with the ISPs to get access to NetChannel’s service. WebTV signed a similar agreement recently, whereby users could pay $10 a month instead of $20 and use their existing ISP. NetChannel says it and its partners are purely going after the first-time users who have no internet connection. The RCA boxes should be in stores by Labor Day.

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