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RCA's consumer NCs recalled

RCA sends recall notices to customers of its TV set-tops.

RCA has sent recall notices to customers of its TV set-top network computers (NCs) which use Network Computer Incorporated (NCI) software.

The notices offer customers a full refund. NCI, a subsidiary of Oracle, supplies software for the computers.

The recall doesn't stem from an inherent product defect, RCA said. Rather, it results from the failure of Internet service provider (ISP) NetChannel. The first and only ISP to provide Internet access via the RCA set-top box, NetChannel earlier this month discontinued independent service and was acquired by America Online.

When service was canceled, the RCA boxes no longer served a purpose, said a source close to NCI.

RCA set-top box, which allowed users to surf the Web on their TV, came out last year and was marketed through a number of consumer electronics stores, including Circuit City.

Originally, NCI had hoped to revolutionize the desktop computing environment, but lack of customer and vendor support have plagued the company. RCA was one of the biggest vendors of computers based on NCI's software, but sold a relatively small number of units.

RCA is said to be at work on another Internet-TV project, said Zona Research.

"While Oracle may link the failure of these boxes to the failure of NetChannel, the reality is that Oracle's NCI group has had to retrench from its aspirations to capture the market for commercial enterprise NCs, and now its highest-profile Internet set-top partner has pulled the plug," the market research firm said. "The cold truth is that Java-based commercial NCs and TV-based Internet access devices, including WebTV and @Home, have yet to resonate with customers to any large degree. "