01 July 1997

ANOTHER CRACK in the dam holding back the irresistible waters of the Internet from the world's mass markets! A set-top box enabling access to the Net via domestic TVs has been launched by a new UK company, Net Products. Co-owned by its employees (most of whom hail from Amstrad and Philips), the tiller is in the hands of Herman Hauser, a co-founder of Acorn Computers. The box, which costs £300, simply plugs both into the TV and a standard phone socket; an infra-red keyboard/remote control costs another £70, although prices are expected to fall by about a third as sales begin to take-off. Internet access is provided at a cost of £15 monthly, debited by swiping a pre-paid smartcard through the box. The device also creates a user-friendly screen display with none of the usual 'techie' connotations of the Internet.