A "super PC" that lets users watch TV, play DVD, access the Internet via satellite and do all the normal PC things - all on a high resolution monitor and all at once -- has been launched this week as "the next generation computer".
The second-largest supplier of Satellite-based Internet bandwidth to Australian ISPs, The Internet Group (TIG), has launched the SatNet Supersystem - a $2600 system (excluding monitor), which has been designed to sit in the lounge room and look like a piece of electronics equipment.
What's more, TIG are testing in New Zealand and plan to roll out in Australia by mid-year, a Pay TV and pay-per-view service that will be delivered to Supersystem users via satellite.
The Supersystem package, which TIG has built from scratch, includes a wireless keyboard, a VCR-look-alike PC with DVD and Windows 98, a SatNet high-speed Internet card and a set-top box card, which enables picture-in-picture viewing. A satellite dish to receive TIG's TV broadcast and Internet access is also provided (with an installation fee of around $150 depending on the user's location).
Black high resolution monitors to match the Supersystem are available from the company in sizes as large as 31 inches (priced at around $1300).
TIG hopes to have 12 television stations and 30 pay-per-view stations up and running by the end of the year. That will include a mix of the more popular Pay TV content such as news, sport, movies and music, "and then it will branch out" said TIG's business manager, Glen Hannon. Whether free-to-air television will be included is still something to be determined, he said.
So will TIG become Australia's first ISP to compete with Pay TV providers such as Foxtel and Optus Vision?
"Yes I guess essentially we would," Hannon told PC World, "because we're providing television. But the thing we're really pushing is that it's bundled together with Internet access -- it's a multimedia package."
"The way we picture it, someone is sitting there with four screens up on their monitor sending an e-mail, downloading a file, watching streaming video, the DVD's playing . . . and the TV - they've got full multimedia."
TIG has been selling Satellite-based Internet access - SatNet - in Australia since late last year. SatNet Internet access is sold on a flat rate of $59 per month, delivering an average speed of 400Kbps, according to Hannon.
Although pricing has not yet been set for the Supersystem service, Hannon said it will be priced similarly - a flat rate of around $70 per month which would cover both the television broadcast and Internet access. Pay-per-view would cost another $5 to $10, he said.
The company is also looking at the possibility of offering the service at no cost for the first few months whilst it is still being ramped-up. "Depending on how many channels we can hook up between now and then. It would be a wonderful thing to be able to do, it's just whether its cost effective at the time," Hannon said.