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Zenith Readies TeleCruz-Enabled Internet TV

GLENVIEW, ILL. -After an aborted attempt at delivering an Internet-enabled TV sets four years ago, Zenith said it is now ready to bring such a product to market.

The company announced an agreement with TeleCruz to market televisions with built-in Internet-access capability.

The first set, an analog 27-inch direct-view model due by second-quarter 2001, will include TeleCruz’s one-chip Internet-enabling engine-including a 32-bit RISC processor with 64 Mbit of SDRAM and OpenTV’s Device Mosaic software that optimizes text and graphics for interlaced displays. A 56-Kbps modem is built in for dial-up Intent access.

Additionally, because the circuitry is built into the set, it offers direct RGB connections to produce sharper images and better color purity than signals fed through S-video or composite video jacks.

Zenith will gauge demand for the set before deciding whether to expand its offerings to include 32- and 36-inch models.

The product will be Zenith’s first Internet TV since dropping a line of NetVision Internet-enabled televisions after failing to generate much consumer demand.

The TeleCruz technology will add a $100 premium to the set, which will be offered at $600 suggested retail, but Zenith will try to entice consumers by offering free Internet access.

TeleCruz has partnered with a new TV-centric Internet Service Provider (ISP), Palo Alto, Calif.-based Transcast, which will offer the “free-to-consumer service.”

Kris Narayan, TeleCruz chairman and founder, said he has an equity stake in Transcast. The ISP called the user interface for the service a “Walled Garden,” presenting content and features from the Internet in a way that can be quickly and easily accessed.

The service will enable streaming media, news, weather sports, entertainment news, MapQuest road maps and a search engine. In addition, viewers will be able to browse the Web, access e-mail and engage in online chats.

Transcast will derive revenue from advertising, transaction fees with content partners and other sources, said the ISP’s VP/co-founder Ramon Cazares. Transcast is working to offer its service to desktop PC users as well, so that TeleCruz TV sets and PCs can share one account, in addition to accessing e-mail from an Internet portal.

Transcast currently offers ISP access to a set-top box it is distributing as a business-to-business service.

Narayan said TeleCruz expects to announce other manufacturing partners at CES next month.