Dallas-based ISP Eisa said it will soon begin offering customers a DVD player that can surf the Internet for $99 if they sign up for two years of Internet service at $23.99 a month.
The device, which plugs into the television and is called the Neo iDVD, combines two hot items on consumers' wish lists: DVD players and Internet access.
DVD player sales so far this year have reached 771,000 thousand units, an increase of 228 percent over the same period last year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. The CEA predicts sales of DVD players will surpass 6.5 million units this year.
Meanwhile, Internet access continues to be the driving force behind consumer purchases of PCs. U.S. consumer PC sales last year grew by more than 20 percent, and an increase of around 17 percent is expected this year.
Eisa is betting that DVD players will attract a large number of consumers looking for an easy way to get Internet access in their homes. If even a small fraction of the total players sold this year contain a dial-up modem, these upstarts could soon wind up with a subscriber base comparable to that of Microsoft's WebTV, which has been on the market since 1996.
But analysts say that sustained demand for Internet access via the television remains far from proven. WebTV has missed subscriber growth projections in the past, for example. Further, if and when customers embrace connected televisions, Eisa will find itself competing with Net-connected game consoles from Sega, Net-connected televisions from Philips, cable and satellite set-tops, and digital video recorders from TiVo and Replay.
There are plenty of big companies betting that wired DVD players will be a popular device, however. Samsung is expected to begin offering a $499 DVD player that will enable people to play games with graphics capabilities equal to those of current game console systems through the use of chip technology from a company called VM Labs.
Samsung said that later this year, people will be able to access the Internet through the device. Toshiba also is expected to come out with a device based on VM Labs' technology.
In addition, other consumer electronics companies are coming up with ways to offer subsidized Net access, which will provide competition against Eisa's Neo DVD player.
Sega today said it will begin offering rebates that give customers a Dreamcast game console if they sign up for two years of its new SegaNet Internet service at $21.95 per month. That service is slated to launch this fall.