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Vincent Grosso, AT&T's interactive TV point-person, is irked by the growing backlash against interactive TV trials and increased attention lavished on computer services.

"It's the bottom of the first inning for this whole interactive superhighway," said Mr. Grosso, AT&T project director for interactive TV. "There's a lot of learning to be done and it's too early to say that interactive television's not going to happen or that the online services have the right gene pool to evolve into interactive television, though they might."

"I think we're taking a snapshot in time when we criticize interactive TV."

Online services and CD-ROMs have seen rapid growth in the last year-as high-profile interactive TV tests have faltered-leading some to conclude that PCs will emerge as the foremost interactive device.

Computer hardware and software have become easier to use in the last year, and the user interfaces and offerings have gotten better, Mr. Grosso admits, adding, "A good consumer experience is a good consumer experience."

But AT&T, which conducted an interactive TV trial in 50 homes last year, is still largely convinced that "the TV set is going to create a superior experience," he said.

To succeed in the market, two-way TV has to overcome technology glitches and encourage changes in peoples' attitudes, he said. AT&T also believes it's essential for builders of the information infrastructure to develop industry standards.

"In the trial phase, it's okay not to have open standards, but in the next year they have to come together or information providers won't be willing to make the second and third layers of investments," Mr. Grosso said.

In the end, he believes it won't matter whether PCs or TVs win the battle: "The real story is how is this going to be changing behavior, not just what are the individual applications."

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