After many bumps in the road from Oracle Corp. chieftain Lawrence Ellison’s announced dream of the Network PC to its actual manufacturing, the first consumer product based on Oracle’s NPC standards has hit the market: Thomson Consumer Electronics’ RCA Network Computer, a TV-attached “set-top box” that allows turning your TV into an Internet connection.
Other formats and standards have beaten Thomson and Oracle to the market — notably Philips’ collaboration with Microsoft’s WebTV system — but at $349 for the deluxe wireless version and $50 less for a wired version, the price is definitely right, and the RCA box can be hooked up to existing computer peripherals like printers.
Additionally, Oracle and Thomson feel that NPC systems give users a more personal interface with the Net than the Philips/WebTV alternative. And there may yet be ways in which NPC systems can hook up with satellite-reception devices like DSS —in which Thomson has become the market leader — down the road.
Thomson is planning a significant national rollout for its NPC in September, but is currently loath to predict initial sales figures. Philips has sold about 90,000 of its WebTV devices since its launch last year.