October 10, 1996 -- Low-Cost Web-Access Devices

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, October 11, 1996.

These sessions are scheduled for noon-1 PM US Eastern Time (GMT -4) every Thursday.

These sessions are hosted by Richard Seltzer. If you would like to receive email reminders of our chat sessions, simply send a blank email message to or go to and sign up there.

For transcripts of other previous sessions and a list of future topics, click here.

For an article on how to make "business chat" work (based on this experience), click here.

Since the chat itself happens at a rapid pace, it's often difficult to note interesting facts in particular URLs as they appear on-line. Here's a place to take a more leisurely look. I've rearranged some of the pieces to try to capture the various threads of discussion (which sometimes get lost in the rush of live chat).

Please send email with your follow-on questions and comments, and suggions for topics we should focus on in future sessions. So long as the volume of email responses is manageable, I'll post the most pertinent ones here for all to see.

Threads (reconstructed after the fact):


Richard Seltzer ( - 12:02pm The scheduled chat is on Business on the WWW. If you are here for that discussion, please identify yourself.

We're here to share experiences about doing business on the Internet -- particularly the World Wide Web. What works? What doesn't work? Why? What are the trends that matter? How can you/should you adapt to the Internet culture and environment?

I work for the Internet Business Group at Digital Equipment in Littleton, MA. In that capacity, I end up talking to people from large companies about how they can use the Web for business.

I also have my own personal Web page -- which is content rich and no frills -- which I do for practically nothing and draws a fair amount of traffic and attention.

In a chat session like this things can get pretty frantic. It's sometimes difficult to follow the threads of conversation. And there's no time to write down interesting URLs and facts. So last week, I took a copy of the raw transcript and edited it to make the threads clearer and posted it at my own little Web site so anyone could take a look. You can see it at I plan to do the same today. Barring technical difficulties, I hope to have a transcript up later today. I'll post it at the same site, naming this one /chat13.html has made some excellent changes that I think can help make sessions like this more effective. They posted some preliminary information, including suggested reading with the description information for this chat. Please let me know if you read that material and if it was helpful.

Keep in mind, that like on a conference call, it reallly helps if people introduce themselves as they come on.

Laurent ( - 12:05pm Hello! My name is Laurent Thérond, I'm currently in France but I will move to Boston next Monday. I'm a kind of Internet specialist...

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:06pm Welcome, Laurent. Where in France? And what is your involvement with Internet business?

Laurent ( - 12:08pm I founded my own business, and I will certainly found a new one in Boston. But I want first to learn to know the Bostonian market...

Laurent ( - 12:19pm I'm in Montpellier, south of France... We are trying to apply the Internet to different kind of businesses...

Bob Fleischer ( - 12:06pm Checking in.

Todd ( - 12:06pm Hello. I'm logging in from DEC.

Mark Corsi ( - 12:06pm Hi. My name is Mark Corsi. I work on internet development for a company out in San Francisco. Could you please tell me more about this reading "list"?

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:08pm Mark Corsi -- They set things up today so if you came early there was a prompt to link you to a schedule/description page that included some suggested reading. The same items are also cited in the transcript from last week Mostly -- pointers to Web sites of interested vendors and also to some recent articles.

tailwind6 ( - 12:08pm Is this the right place for the weekly business discussion with richard seltzer?

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:11pm tailwind6 -- Yes, you are in the right place. Today, we are focusing on low-cost Web-access devices and their likely impact in the Internet business environment.

jm317 ( - 12:27pm hello is anyone here that will talk to me?

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:31pm jm317 -- Glad to talk -- regarding Internet business -- what's your interest/perspective?

Peaches ( - 12:43pm Hey Everyone!

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:13pm Is anyone from WebTV, Oracle, or Microsoft on at this point? (I made a number of requests, but it was uncertain who would actually be free for this hour.)

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:06pm Today, while we'll (as usual) be open to questions of all kinds about business on the WWW, we would like to focus on the business implications of the new generation of low-cost Web devices (like WebTV) which are just now appearing in stores. Has anyone out there used one? Is anyone out there itching to buy one? If so, why?

Importance of Voice Recognition vs. Keyboards

Todd ( - 12:08pm I'd like to try one last time to make a point about keyboards. While I understand how indispensible they are at this time, I believe a good voice recognition system (or another convenient verbal input method) is critical to growing Internet participation on the scale of 100 million, at least in the US. My logic is based on the belief that the technically adventurous have largely been tapped in this country and that computer sceptics view any device with a keyboard as a computer, no matter what it's marketers call it. As evidence, Bill Gates' keynote at Unix Expo yesterday implied several times that Microsoft was hard at work on voice recognition.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:10pm Todd -- Interesting regarding keyboards. I just took a look at the Philips/Magnavox site to see what they had to say about their version of WebTV and was shocked to see a photo of a non-QWERTY keyboard -- they are the keys in alphabetical order. I can't imagine anyone doing email much less chat with such a keyboard.

Todd ( - 12:13pm Somewhere in my reading on webTV devices I believe I read of a keyboard switch to go between qwerty and abcde.

barbara ( - 12:11pm Hi! Todd, voice recognition wont work with the deaf or hard of hearing, so there will always be a need for keyboards.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:12pm Barbara -- I agree. I don't think keyboards will go away. (I'm a keyboard addict myself.) I'd hope for an environment in which I could multiplex -- speaking, listening, reading, and typing simultaneously -- some for general consumption and some for side conversations with one or more select individuals.

Mark Corsi ( - 12:13pm I tend to think Todd has the right answer. The only way "web TV" will grow and expand is through voice recognition (especially for commercial sites on the web). I tend to overlook the fact that the majority of the consumers out there are still "afraid" of computers. However, once the keyboard is removed, many people will develop a comfort level "talking" to their TV.

Bob Fleischer ( - 12:13pm I agree that voice input would vastly increase the market for internet devices. I think that any device that depends primarily upon the keyboard for user input is simply a variant of a PC, which may have some appeal, but it also has some problems if it is diskless.

Tom Mfg. Mgr ( - 12:14pm The Internet is limited to 30 Million PC users, best case. Voice activated Internet is the way to go to get the rest of the world on-line.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:15pm While voice has certain advantages, I don't believe that voice recognition has advanced far enough. I wouldn't want to "tell" my computer what site I wanted to go to. I do see voice though in the sense of Internet Phone -- as a means for people to talk to people over the Internet. I see voice less necessary as a means to interact with the system and give commands.

Todd ( - 12:15pm Right. I don't see keyboards going away. Just that they are no longer required. Many people are willing to use an ATM but not a computer. Bob Fleischer ( - 12:15pm to Todd -- Internet limited to 30 M PC dues to resistance to the use of the keyboard?

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:17pm Tom Mfg. Mgr. -- I agree that we have to expand the Internet audience -- vastly; and that new kinds of devices are necessary to make that happen. I don't, however, believe that voice recognition is a necessary component of such a device. In fact, the array of gadgets now hitting the marketplace don't seem to have that. And at the current level of technology voice recognition would probably add a lot to cost, at a time when most vendors are thinking of cost as being a major factor slowing audience growth.

Mark Corsi ( - 12:19pm Richard -- I actually was under the belief that voice recognition has come a lot further than that. Recently several companies released software which would allow for the transcription/recognition of 60,000+ words; this same software has the capability to adjust for accent and tonal inflections as it "learns" the user's voice. One of the companies that is doing the premier research in this field is based right outside of Boston (the name is escaping me at the moment) the only problem is, the software -at this moment- is cost prohibitive. But we all know what will happen with that problem given time.

Tom Mfg. Mgr ( - 12:21pm I heard a rumor that Bell LLabs has a device to allow the telephone to activate WWW sites and convert the text to audio. Anybody hear about that?

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:25pm Tom Mfg. Mgr. -- That capability you mentioned sounds very interesting. Please send me email with details and I'll add it to the transcript.

Todd ( - 12:23pm Bob - I don't know the numbers (though I thought it was more than 30 mil), but I know a lot of people who aren't going to touch a keyboard for leisure.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:23pm Mark -- When the cost drops, I'm with you. Voice (in addition to keyboard and mouse input) will be very important. But that won't happen overnight. The main focus on these low-cost Web-access devices for the next year or two at least is likely to be on cost -- make it as cheap as possible. Hence I don't think you're going to see much in the way of sophisticated voice recognition in this market for some time. But what you can and should see in Internet Phone kind of capability, so we could carry on chats like this with voice as one stream of the dialogue.

Laurent ( - 12:24pm We would like to dream but one must be serious... more that 60% of Internet users own a simple 14,400 bauds fast modem, 40% of them own a 14" screen, etc... How can you think that those people are ready to get rid of their keyboard?

Jim Dorval ( - 12:25pm The ability of codecs (coder/decoder) to handle audio processing in a home use environment, and provide usable cost effective voice recognition is slim at best.

Definitions -- What Do We Mean by Low-Cost Web-Access Devices?

Mark Corsi ( - 12:29pm Richard -- We are in full agreement. I don't see the voice recognition stuff coming into the game for at least another 3-5 years. My near term bet resides with companies like Mitsubishi. They (as you already mentioned) are going to make thier TVs "internet capable/ready". If the cable companies solve the bi-directional problem quickly enough, the combination will put the internet in everyone's lap who purchases a new TV. With that being the case, I believe people will begin to adjust to the medium - simply because it is accesible through their remote control (granted they still may need to pick up the keyboard to maximize its features) but more importantly, they will not have to make a conscientious decision to bring it into their homes. It will already be there.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:21pm All -- quick definitions -- There are a lot of related gadgets in the works. WebTV (with the hardware coming from Sony and Philips/Magnavox) is a $300+ gadget that you hook to a phone line and your TV set that lets you surf the Web without a PC. (I think it has a lot of drawbacks). Others, like Mitsubishi (I believe) are preparing to offer TV sets with Internet access built in. Others are developing Network Computers (diskless PCs). Still others (Microsoft and Netscape) are developing software (operating systems) intended to allow non-PC devices to talk to one another and to interact over the Internet. And game companies like Nintendo and Sega are coming out with 64-bit game machines that will use the Internet (but not necessarily the Web) for remote interactive games.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:34pm Mark -- My guess timeframe-wise would be -- 1) yes, the built-in add-on capability to a TV set (you bought a TV and this is just something extra; you aren't depending on it as your only link to the Internet). 2) 1-2 years out, the diskless PCs (or NCs) start to take off 3) 3-5 years old the voice recognition becomes very important 4) by 5-10 years out a vast variety of non-PC devices that use the Internet will be common household necessities.

Todd ( - 12:41pm Richard - your time estimates sound right to me. But in 10 years or so, the current generation of computer-fearless kids will make some of the computer-phobia issues disappear.

Laurent ( - 12:29pm We noticed that many companies are already disappointed... they didn't get what they were promised! Gadgets are fine, but they only are gadgets.

Laurent ( - 12:26pm It's a safe practice to pull the market ahead... but in this case I think we may risk an Internet backdraft... A lot of companies aren't ready to change their hardware and software that often...

Todd ( - 12:32pm laurent - the debate is about those who aren't yet participating on the Web, not current PC owners.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:30pm Laurent -- Yes, I agree, there is major risk of a backlash -- from WebTV kinds of devices that seem over-hyped and inappropriate for the Internet environment, from other kinds of innovations that aren't on target. There is lots of pent-up demand for low-cost Internet access. And the folks who want it the most have very little knowledge/familiarity with the environment. They just want to join the game. They are very vulnerable to vague hype and likely to buy the first/ cheapest box that seems to give them what they want. Then the disillusion sets in when it really can't do what they thought it would.

Jim Dorval ( - 12:31pm WebTV and similar products will most likely follow the curve of New Tech products. The first generation adopters will create a short term sales burst. But then cost and functionality for everyday users will determine the future. If it can not be used as easily as a microwave or VCR(???) then the product will not generate enough income maintain development.

Todd ( - 12:34pm Jim - I'm not betting against Microsoft. When they've seen a market demand, they usually meet it. As for cost, Gates said yesterday that the secret is in economies of scale. Think of how many units they sell to pick up the cost of $2 bill in R&D.

Laurent ( - 12:35pm Todd: future is always more interesting than past but never more important than present. We build today what we will be able to hope tomorrow.

Laurent ( - 12:37pm Gates is clever because he always goes with the wind. But the market makes the wind and the market sometimes goes in the wrong direction.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:39pm Jim -- Microsoft is already betting on this new direction with their Windows CE operating system for non-PC devices.

Jim Dorval ( - 12:43pm I have worked with Microsoft since the DOS days, and have an understanding of the Marketing prowess they are capable of. They have many misses that are swept under the carpet, some misses that are announced as hits, and a few great successes. Look into the actual ROI (return on investment) of Windows 95 and how many endpoint are running it as opposed to purchased it. The success was in the marketing, not in the implementation or functionality.

Jim Dorval ( - 12:39pm Most Web sites currently are not optimized for the broadest array of endpoints. The graphics are to complex, and the presentation is not simple enough for all. WebTV is a good example. 1. Chat does not work. 2. An image map links to an image map. 3. Sponsor links do not return to the financial provider. 4. The database has no information. 5. A sponsor image has no link. These types of issues need to be resolved before the mass market is going to be accessible.

Jim Dorval ( - 12:45pm p.s. 1970's ...... plastics. 1990's ...... bandwidth.

Network Computers (Diskless PCs)

Todd ( - 12:20pm Someone brought up diskless devices lastr week and I was wondering if service providers don't see them as a benefit because bookmarks, etc. stored with their services could be "mined" for marketing data. This could of course be done protecting the anonymity of the owner or not.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:28pm Todd -- At lunch today, I was speaking with Dudley Howe in our Internet group here at Digital, and he had some interesting insights. We're not too far from the time when utility companies will be able to provide switched 10 Mbit Internet access to the home, inexpensively; and probably within 18 months after that, by just making changing on the poles, 100 Mbit to the home. (Keep in mind that cable TV lines give you 10 Mbit "shared" -- which in reality is far less than switched.) When we get to that point, over the next two years, diskless PCs become very interesting.

Laurent ( - 12:32pm Richard: you are optimistic! If this is possible in the United-States, it'isn't necessarily so elsewhere. Currently, in France, no one never heard about the cable modems technology: ...

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:38pm Laurent -- The speeds that Dudley was talking about did not relate to cable modems. He was talking about what utility companies could provide to homes using fiber optic cable and very fast switches (like Gigaswitches). In western Massachusetts, Westfield Gas and Electric is already moving in that direction. The cable TV companies have been very slow to move toward Internet services. They have lots of excess baggage in terms of technology and business procedures that make it difficult for them to make the transition. Utility companies (particularly electric companies which are about to be deregulated and will have to compete and have to find new sources of revenue) are likely to move much faster. It will be very different in France where (I believe) the utilities are nationalized monopolies.

Mark Corsi ( - 12:36pm Richard -- could you explain a little more about these diskless PCs? What will be there attraction when I can access web servers at 10-30 Mbs??

Laurent ( - 12:40pm Mark: I don't believe in diskless PCs. I don't believe in a new IBM era. Intel is quite powerful to handle this situation. The place of NCs will be in intranets. We did not improve that much since our old X servers!

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:42pm Mark -- Right now bandwidth is the biggest problem to getting the full utility of the Internet. There are excellent applications -- multi-media glitz -- that simply take too long to load to be interesting. If 10 Mbit switched or even 100 Mbit were available, you would very quickly see high-quality video-phone, video-conferencing etc. to the home. When I see the miracles that the likes of RealAudio and VDOLive and Vivo have been able to accomplish for 14.4 and 28.8 modem access, I have to believe that when you change the rules of the game and make enormous bandwidth available remarkable new applications -- that we haven't yet dreamed of -- will soon become available.

barbara ( - 12:39pm Do you mean in 10 years we will use a visual type phone via internet?

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:43pm Barbara -- Low quality video phone capability is available already. Over time with better bandwidth it will get much better.

Mark Corsi ( - 12:44pm Richard -- I am in full agreement. So the question remains, when I can access web applications at speeds which will eliminate the need for local processing power, why will I want a diskless PC?? Why not just use my internet capable TV browser and a keyboard coupled with an application residing on a server out in cyberspace??

Laurent ( - 12:48pm Mark: I think that such a system could be very expensive... We had a good experience with our Minitel...

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:47pm Laurent -- regarding the utility of diskless PCs, as Dudley pointed out to me today, it isn't just that you'll get full motion video with 100 Mbit bandwidth. No, when the bandwidth is that high, you have no problem letting your data and your applications reside on remote servers. You start operating in a totally different kind of computing environment that removes the hassle and complexity and maintenance and backup problems, that for a small fee makes sure that you always have access to the latest and greatest versions of the software you need -- and you never have to go through the headaches of installation. Imagine a cheap box that is just your entry point -- and your "computer" is really virtual space on remote servers. That will probably happen first on company intranets. But in 5-10 years (when the bandwidth is there) it should be common for the home as well.

France & Minitel

Laurent ( - 12:44pm Richard: France Telecom is the only telecom company in France. Their staff isn't qualified, their system is old, their prices are high and they don't want to move ahead. But (and it's a great but) in 1997 the French market will be available to all. France Telecom will downsize as ever before and we will start to catch up... Nothing will happen before this time... I mean before the end of 1997...

Laurent ( - 12:53pm Richard: when France Telecom started to distribute its Minitel (a kind of NC: no disk, no processor, etc.), they had first to give away the terminal because they needed to build the market as fast as possible. Then they decided to ask for high fee based on connection time. A part of this fee was paid to information providers. Then appeared the Internet...

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:53pm Laurent -- I heard that the French PTT is in the process of making major Internet-related investments to move beyond Minitel. Has there been much news of that in France?

Laurent ( - 12:56pm Tomorrow, the Minitel won't exist anymore... Why? Because the fee is to high, information providers move to the Internet. France Telecom tried to decrease their fee, but the Minitel network was so expensive that they couldn't follow.

Laurent ( - 12:58pm Now, France Telecom wants to move ahead too. But they are so bad! Before the beginning of their partnership with Sprint they didn't even know how to configure a router!

Laurent ( - 1:00pm Richard: nevertheless they will certainly get a great share of the market. Indeed they own all the current system.

Game Devices

Jim Sullivan ( - 12:44pm Richard, I read someting about someting that can be plugged into a SEGA machine for Internet access. Any comment.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:51pm Jim Sullivan -- Yes, re: Sega, just yesterday I was talking to Mark Hayes from Microsoft -- trying to get him to tune in for this chat; and he saw an enormous opportunity for the Nintendo and Sega game boxes to become "low-cost Web-access" devices. Maybe they won't "surf the Web", but there's lots of money to be made using the Internet for games, and there are opportunities to provide more than just games over those same lines and same boxes.

Todd ( - 12:55pm Richard - I'm sceptical. If you take something specific, like a game box, and make it something general, like a computer, you change it drastically.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:57pm Todd -- They wouldn't make it something general. But they could add discrete capabilities -- like, perhaps, allowing you to buy specific products on-line.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:58pm Todd -- The real market may not be for the general purpose device that does everything.


anonymous ( - 12:43pm I have just joined the high band pass club. I just got my ISDN connection completed and it took the Phone company 2 months to figure out which Switching office I should be sent through 2 different phone numbers, and 3 weeks after the phone company installer came here to make the connection, I figured out how to make it work. If we expect to see high band pass, cable modems, ISDN, DirectPC and other technologies take off we have to figure out how to make it easier for people not in this industry. If I had not been a Techie for the last 24 years I would have given up 2 1/2 weeks ago.

Todd ( - 12:50pm anon - interesting news. Who's you phone co.?

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:49pm anonymous -- Congratulations. I would never attempt the daunting task of getting ISDN. The phone companies have certainly blown that opportunity.

Lee (aka anony) ( - 12:52pm In the rural areas I think there is a great market for this because the measured service is so costly to get decent ISP connections, the ISDN cost is cheaper and better. However, the sales people, installers, and some technicians don't understand it. And of course prior to 3 weeks ago this customer did not understand it either.

Lee ( - 12:53pm I am in Goochland, VA halfway between Richmond and Charlottesville and the phone company is Bell Atlantic Infospeed, ISDN service.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:54pm Lee -- Yes, having the capability is one thing. Having people who can explain it to customers and install it hassle-free is something else. CableTV companies have the same basic problem -- how do you make your company do a quick about face to take advantage of a new and promising but very different kind of business opportunity?

Lee ( - 1:00pm It takes courage, innovation, dollars and vision. A company has to understand very early in the life cycle of a product that it has promise and be willing to spend the necessary R&D and training dollars BEFORE the revenue starts to prepare themselves to appropriately serve the public they hope to market to. However, most companies I see are unwilling to spend money until the revenue starts. The world has become a shrink-wrapped download and show me consumer public and getting a customer to but something you have not built or sold yet is gone. Companies have to invest BEFORE the money rolls in.

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:56pm Lee -- What do you pay for your ISDN service? Is it a flat monthly fee? Or based on time used as well?

Lee ( - 1:04pm EST: -- ISDN costs $450 startup. $.02 USD per minute per 64 kbs channel (2 channels possible). ISP charges $15 per month unlimimted. Bell Atlantic has different levels. Example $31/month 20 hours. I use 64 kbs for data / 64 for additional phone line.

Chat Software

Agentscully ( - 12:48pm Has anyone tried OnLive! Talker?

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:51pm AgentScully (X files?) -- What are those products you mentioned?

Agentscully ( - 12:53pm OnLive! Talker and OnLive! Traveler. Similar to this site. A website chat room.

What Do People Actually Use Today?

Jim Dorval ( - 12:55pm To put things in perspective... how many people here have an internet access capable machine at home, what do you use it for, and how often?

Todd ( - 1:00pm Jim - I bought my machine at home specifically for it's Web capabilities (big screen, fast modem). I use it about every other day for general browsing or a small moonlight business I'm trying to grow.

Wrap Up

Richard Seltzer ( - 12:59pm All -- The hour has disappeared and we're just getting started. Please send email about topics for next week -- or I'm inclined to continue this one again.

Richard Seltzer ( - 1:01pm Next Thursday I'll be speaking at Internet Expo in a time slot that overlaps with this. I've asked Bruce Platt from Comport to fill in for me (he's been with us quite a few times and is very knowledgeable). If I can find an available machine at the Hynes Auditorium, I'll connect for the end of the session. Please join us again and spread the word.

Laurent ( - 1:02pm Richard: hope to see you then! :)

barbara ( - 1:01pm Bye

Richard Seltzer ( - 1:02pm Please send email if you would like me to add you to a list to receive weekly email reminders about these sessions. Please send me your followup comments as well and I'll put them in the transcript.

Richard Seltzer ( - 1:02pm All -- Thank you all very much. I really enjoyed this one.


From: Marlae Rindlisbacher Sent: Tuesday, October 15, 1996 8:40:10 PM

I am a student at BYU in Provo, UT studying Public Relations. I was surfing a bit looking for ideas to bring to my web publishing class when I came across your page. I just started reading it, in fact I haven't yet finished it but I'd like to get my thoughts down before they leave. I was reading a chat session which took place on 9-19 about business on the WWW. This interests me very much. My dream is to live in Page Arizona (Lake Powell) or somewhere else just as remote and 'telecommute' to work over the internet.

I am also in the middle of writing an article for a newsletter on how technology is (or more likely isn't) being used in the classroom. I work at Media Services on campus and I know what is available for professors and the implications technology has on the learning environment. Unfortunally too many professors still teach with a piece of chalk and a blackboard.

To me the most exciting part of technology in the classroom is the 'virtual university'. Governor Levitt of Utah has nearly completed his dream of the Western Governers Univirsity. WGU will incorporate over 900 colleges and universities from 13 western states and will be the largest distance learning experiment ever.

Finally, I am very interested in where the internet is going. I've heard a lot about different cable and communications companies putting the internet on their cable lines and the pros and cons of doing so.

I hope to check in at the next chat session but I'll probably be in class or something. I've bookmarked this page and I'll check back often.

I'd like to see these interests of mine discussed, that is if you need any topics of discission.

Feel free to email me at Marlae_Rindlisbacher@BYU.EDU.

Thank you

Tony Cox (My Name)

From: "Bill Keenan" Sent: Oct. 15, 1996

I'd like to respond and add to some of the comments Richard Seltzer made about "Web-TVs". Let me preface my remarks by saying I am an independent distributor for FutureNet Online, Inc. (who has their own Web-TV coming out Nov. 11). ( I will keep my comments non-solicitous, as best as I am able :-).

>Some of these devices are aimed at a passive, consumer, TV-like audience, while the main attraction of the Internet today is interaction among people and the ability to publish your own pages.

>And while the content on the Internet is likely, over time, to becomemore "entertainment" oriented, what's out there today is largely "information". It's hard to imagine what today's purchaser of such a device is likely to do with it.

I agree that there is an attraction to the "entertainment" aspect. However, I use the Internet several times a day. Most of my "interaction" is via e-mail. I do not have a personal page. While my habits may not be main-stream, I believe I am the "typical" demographic of the current user (30ish WASP, etc.) I use the Internet to grab specific info when I want it (primarily CNN, ESPN, NY Times, etc.). Am I wrong to think that this would be an attraction to a large number of others? Especially if the price of admission is in the Web-TV price range?

>This looks like a device designed for an Internet that doesn't existtoday, and buyers will soon be disillusioned 1) that with it they can't easily do the very things that people with real Internet connectivity rave about, and 2) passive, packaged, TV-type content simply isn't available yet. I would guess that in about a year, second generation devices better suited for the Internet environment will begin to appear and -- if the backlash from the first generation isn'ttoo strong -- they will be very successful.

>Does this view make sense to you? If not, what is your viewpoint?

The consumers expectations of what they will get when they first "surf the web" are certainly high. I certainly personally experienced the "backlash" of disappointment when I started - my only access point is at work with no sound / video capabilities at my desk.

But I slowly learned what I could do within the confines of my equipment - though I don't have all the "rave" stuff, my expectations have come down to reality.

>And if you are an Internet entrepreneur, what does this phenomenon mean in terms of your business plans?

Two things...First, I want to help people maximize their use of the net through these low-cost devices. The explosion and the backlash will occur - how can we stabilize these occurences? With large doses of personalized customer service ("hand-holding")!

Second...if I can provide a worthwhile service, I hope to be able to profit in doing so. Unlike buying a Web TV from a retail outlet, Futurenet products are distributed solely via network marketing - one hallmark of nwm is the ability to "get close to the customer" in a way the economics of more traditional distribution do not allow for. I can afford to spend the time to make sure users get the most from these kinds of units because I get paid to do so!

It will be truly exciting to see what happens to the net as this wave of "non-computer-literate" folks comes rushing on!

Bill Keenan, National Program Director, Strategic Advantage,, 300 Clifton Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403, (Phone) 612-871-1131 (Fax) 612-871-1151

From: Bill Keenan <> Date: Wed, 16 Oct 1996 09:07:21 CSTCDT

You are welcome to include my post in the transcript. I appreciate you asking permission.

Unfortunately, due to my commitments at my job (FutureNet is my "after-hours" enterprise), I cannot participate in the live chat session. If there was one "after hours" I would be happy to.

In the meantime, please feel free to call on me as a resource. If I don't know the answers, I know where to get them! I do feel these low-cost access devices are going to allow millions of folks, who wouldn't otherwise, access the net - that is exciting because I believe net access can be a great cultural / educational "equalizer" between the "haves" and the "have-nots".

Technically, these "set-top" boxes are inferior to a PC. I would not recommend them to someone who already has access, other than as a secondary unit for the kids to play with. But the technical superiority is not the issue - If someone can only afford a Yugo, should they wait to start driving until they can afford a Cadillac?

From: Carlton Waters <> Date: Wed, 16 Oct 1996 16:44:10 -0700

We would love to participate in your scheduled discussion of low cost Internet devices. In reading the transcripts of past sessions we have noticed a lot of misconceptions about WebTV. We would value the opportunity to discuss WebTV with the participants of your chat. Thank you for your invitation and we will see you there. If you would like to contact me directly you can reach me at 1-415-614-7822 or 1-800-GOWEBTV x7822.

Carlton Waters, WebTV Customer Care,

Previous transcripts and schedule of upcoming chats --

To connect to the chat room, go to

The full text of Richard Seltzer's books The Social Web, Take Charge of Your Web Site, Shop Online the Lazy Way, and The Way of the Web, plus more than a hundred related articles are available on CD ROM My Internet: a Personal View of Internet Business Opportunities.

Web Business Boot Camp: Hands-on Internet lessons for manager, entrepreneurs, and professionals by Richard Seltzer (Wiley, 2002). No-nonsense guide targets activities that anyone can perform to achieve online business
success. Reviews.

a library for the price of a book.

This site is Published by Samizdat Express, 213 Deerfield Lane, Orange, CT 06477. (203) 553-9925.

Return to Samizdat Express