Roger Black joining @Home

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If design guru Roger Black didn't feel at home in the online world before, he will soon.

Mr. Black is joining longtime friend Will Hearst at @Home, an ambitious high-speed Internet access service expected to launch next year.

He will be creative director of the service, a joint venture of TCI Technology Ventures, Englewood, Colo., and venture capitalist Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Menlo Park, Calif. Mr. Hearst, who has known Mr. Black since 1977, is a partner in Kleiner Perkins and acting CEO of @Home.

Mr. Black is resigning as creative director at Esquire and giving up day-to-day responsibilities at his New York print and interactive design studios, which have done work for the Baltimore Sun, Discovery Channel Online and USA Today Online, among others. (He is also overseeing a print design project for Advertising Age.)

No replacement has been named yet at Esquire. "@Home is the center of the universe in terms of online," Mr. Black said. "It's going to feel like nothing we've seen online before."

Palo Alto, Calif.-based @Home next month will announce its first market and launch date, as well as several local content providers. Pricing hasn't been established, but Mr. Hearst said earlier this year that basic service could start at $30 per month.

Netscape Communications Corp. is providing much of the server and browser software for @Home.

For cable operators that have been burned by interactive TV, running online services over coaxial and fiber-optic cable could be a lucrative business. Cable modems transmit information up to 500 times faster than current modems, and the additional bandwidth afforded by the cable allows for greatly enhanced audio and video capabilities.

"The goal of this company is to turn this broadband Internet access business into just that: a business," said Sean Doherty, @Home director of business development.

But while the technology is appealing, the modems are expensive and the upstream path (from the consumer back to the online service) isn't nearly as fast as going downstream.

"I'm a little worried about the prospects [for cable modem technology] because there are a lot of technical and customer service-type obstacles in the way of getting consumers to pick up data services over cable," said Emily Green, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass.

Copyright October 1995 Crain Communications Inc.

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