London-based Viewcall Europe Ltd has teamed with Daewoo Electronics Co Ltd for the launch of a new internet television service in Europe, hoping to rival the Philips and Sony partnerships with Microsoft Corp’s WebTV Networks Inc, and RCA Thomson’s tie-in with NetChannel Inc. At the Berlin IFA consumer electronics show over the weekend, the two firms announced a new service called IN-TV, due to be launched in time for the Christmas market. Viewcall will provide the service using Daewoo’s internet TV appliances for the European market, particularly Germany and the UK, and believes it will be selling 50,000 a month in those two countries. The service is aimed at non-PC users who want to access the web from their televisions. Like WebTV, Viewcall will be adapting web pages for the television screen, and will select the internet service providers for the system. But it insists its system is open compared with WebTV, saying it has plans to run the system on other set top boxes in the future. Daewoo’s box, which plugs into a telephone line and the television, uses and Advanced Risc Machines Ltd ARM chip and a 32.6Kbps modem, and Daewoo has supplied the browser. Viewcall says it had some input into the early stages of the box’s design. The service will be developed to include home banking and shopping services next year. Viewcall is also working with the Interactive Media division of Axel Springer Verlag AG to develop web content for the German market. The price will be somewhere between $15 and $20 per month for the service (including internet service provider) and the box, with the subscriber eventually owning the box. ViewCall’s chief executive officer John Bentley says the European market is his primary focus at the moment, with both less competition and more potential than the US market, given that there are more people without personal computers. Viewcall Europe is now separated from its erstwhile sister company, Viewcall America Inc, which, ironically, was acquired by Netchannel Inc earlier this year.
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