In its latest salvo against Microsoft, Oracle plans to allow TV viewers to use their sets to surf the Internet while simultaneously watching the latest episode of 'Eastenders'.
The company boasts that the ability to use online services while also watching normal TV programmes is a facility not offered by Microsoft with its WebTV offering. Viewers will be able to open a box in the corner of the screen, which will provide Web access without disturbing the viewing of a programme.
Set-top boxes based on Oracle specifications will be available by Christmas from third party suppliers such as Thompson Consumer Electronics. According to Jerry Baker, chief executive of Oracle subsidiary Network Computer Inc - which will produce the software to enable this joint TV/Internet functionality - the boxes should retail for no more than $300.
Microsoft is tipped to respond to the Oracle announcement by ramping up its own plans to produce ?enhanced TV?. The two companies are in a race to establish a foothold in the emerging interactive TV sector in the hope that the first to market will dominate the field.
The success of the Oracle approach will be dependent on the company?s success in signing cooperative deals with TV broadcasters - Internet generated data is sent in the ?gaps? between TV signals. No such deals have yet been signed.
The Oracle announcement came less than a day after the company completed its purchase of an undisclosed stake in Netscape spin-off Navio Communications.
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