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Philips to give Net access through TVs

Philips announced a U.S. version of its CD-Online entertainment machine designed to give users Internet access through their television sets.

Dutch electronics giant Philips is jumping on the Internet bandwagon with the announcement today of a U.S. version of its CD-Online entertainment machine designed to give users access to email and the Web through their television sets.

CD-Online, which is used with a television set, plays all CD-i software titles, as well as audio, video and photo CDs. It will also come equipped with a 14.4 modem, proprietary Internet software, and the ability to convert text and graphics for NTSC television display.

Philips is the latest of a fast-growing line of vendors to lay stakes on the eventual convergence of the PC and the TV, a super-heated market that is driving much of the industry's technological development. Last week, Zenith announced a partnership with Diba to produce a PC television set, and other industry leaders have made similar plans in recent months as technology and lower labor costs make it more difficult to compete in the home entertainment market.

Like Sony and other established television manufacturers, Philips may have at least one key advantage over their PC competitors because it has a head start on making text legible on a screen from sofa-viewing distances--one of the biggest obstacles to the computer-television merger today.

Philips, which expects to release the set-top box this summer, will also bundle in three months' free subscription to local Internet services and special control mechanisms to let parents block out inappropriate Internet areas.

Philips plans to offer the system for less than $700. For current CD-i owners, an upgrade kit to the Internet version will be available for less than $200. Keyboard will cost another $50.

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