At a presentation Friday, Apple Computer displayed a new version of its EZTV on-screen menu program that raises the stakes significantly in the interactive TV market, according to analysts.Apple chairman John Sculley gave a preview of the significant leap in capabilities last Wednesday, two days before the demonstration at Digital World, the weeklong conference held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Gaston Bastiaens, head of Apple’s Personal Interactive Electronics division, displayed EZTV as a program with a host of features currently not discussed by other venders. One such feature is a remote control that has a built-in microphone and speaker. Using a voice recognition technology dubbed “Casper,” the TV viewer would be able to speak into the remote the channel of choice, and the system would immediately call it up onto the screen. Likewise, instructions to purchase an item through interactive shopping channel could be done by saying “buy it.” The program is designed to navigate through the upcoming 500 channels that are expected to be available on many cable systems by the end of 1994. It is also intended as the gateway to interactive services, such as home shopping, banking or even electronic mail. If successful, Apple is positioning EZTV as a standard acceptable to cable system operators. ‘Personal channels’ “EZTV is the basis for a two-way communication far beyond video-on-demand, “said Bastiaens. “It’s not about hundreds of channels, but personal channels. You get what you want when you want.” Another feature currently contemplated is the ability to tape a program and be able to send it to another location using EZTV’s communications capability. But it is Casper that appears to dramatically increase the functionality of the interactive menu. “It’s very interesting,” said Denise Caruso, editor of Digital Media, a industry newsletter. “What a perfect way to interact with the menu.” It can also be expanded to handle video-phone capability, added Fabrice Florin, head of Apple’s Discovery program, which developed EZTV.
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