IDVD Plays Movies, Surfs the Web

SAN FRANCISCO (04/04/2000) - Ninety-nine bucks for a DVD player that also lets you access the Internet? Sounds a little too good to be true, but that's the estimated price for the Neo IDVD Internet appliance announced Monday by eisa Ltd.

The device, due in stores by mid-May, combines a DVD player with a 56-kilobits-per-second modem and software. The result is an Internet appliance that lets you play DVD movies and audio CDs, as well as surf the Web and send e-mail. You need only add your television and a phone line.

The growing popularity of the DVD player makes it a natural convergence device, says Chris McKie, an Eisa.com spokesperson.

By adding Internet capabilities to a high-demand product such as a DVD player, the company hopes to reach a wide range of users, McKie says. They include people who do not yet have an Internet connection at home, as well as connected PC owners who want additional Internet access in the living room.

To use the IDVD on the Web, you have to sign a two-year contract with Eisa.com at $23.95 monthly (it won't work with other Internet service providers). Right now, the service is limited to the unit's dial-up modem speeds. Future IDVD units will likely support broadband alternatives such as digital subscriber line, McKie says. Other PCs in the home can also go online through the Eisa.com service.

Basic Browsing

The IDVD includes a remote control that lets you run the DVD and CD audio, as well as basic Web-browsing features. The included wireless keyboard has a built-in thumb pad for easy navigation, McKie says.

The IDVD box is powered by IEnhance software, made by Planetweb. IEnhance includes applications for Web access, e-mail, Internet Relay Chat, and parental control, says Gordon Short, vice president of marketing and business development. The browser lets you access any Web site, but it does not support plug-ins.

The DVD and Internet features operate largely independent of each other, Short says, but down the road there will be more integration between the two.

Future IDVD units will let you access the embedded Internet content available on many of today's DVD movies, the way connected PCs can today, he says.

Later, you'll be able to control features such as playback via Web-based applications. So, for example, using the Web you could tell the IDVD to show you specific scenes within a movie.

PC-Friendly

Short says the IDVD isn't designed to compete with PCs. As an appliance it does a few specific things well, but a PC is designed to do many different tasks.

The beauty of an Internet appliance is that its limited function means it works more simply, he says. The IDVD practically configures itself: When you plug it in and turn it on, it dials a toll-free number to track down your local calling number among Eisa.com's 1500-plus access numbers.

Of course, that same simplicity means the IDVD offers fewer features than your basic PC does, he says. "This is an appliance, and it doesn't do spreadsheets."

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