Sony Electronics Inc. last week introduced a
direct-broadcast satellite-compatible software upgrade for its WebTV Plus Internet set-top
With the new software, WebTV subscribers will be able to
connect a DBS receiver to their WebTV Plus boxes, allowing them to channel-surf and access
the Internet at the same time. The upgrade also enhances the capabilities of the typical
DBS on-screen programming guide, according to Greg Gudorf, vice president of digital media
marketing for Sony.
For example, a WebTV Plus customer could search the
programming guide for shows featuring a favorite actor, or set up on-screen reminders for
TV Link icons also alert the viewer if there's a web
site connected to the current movie or TV show.
Starting next month, the software upgrade will be
downloaded free to WebTV subscribers. In addition to the DBS functions, the new software
will also let WebTV subscribers add audio and still video images to their e-mail messages.
A single software upgrade is compatible with all three U.S.
DBS formats: the Digital Satellite System, backed by DirecTv Inc. and U.S. Satellite
Broadcasting; EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network; and PrimeStar Inc.
WebTv subscribers select their own satellite platform from
the set-up menu. Instead of a DBS feed, WebTV Plus users can also specify
"cable" or "off-air" for their WebTV Plus programming guide. Future
upgrades may allow viewers to select both "satellite" and "off-air"
from the set-up menu, Gudorf said.
Gudorf would not comment on how soon Sony might introduce a
set-top box with both DBS and WebTV capabilities built in.
Sony is currently a DSS hardware licensee. The company also
has a partial ownership in General Instrument, which manufactures hardware for PrimeStar
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