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If you've watched TV this fall, you've seen ads for Web TV. Sony & Philips have been promoting the heck out of the devices, hoping that consumers too cheap or too scared to buy a computer will surf with abandon from their recliner. Is '97 the year Internet appliances will take off? Don't count on it. Long-term potential is great; short term is debatable.

"I see a lot of crap and poorly thought-out stuff about to emerge," said a top exec at one company involved in the Web device market. We do like the idea of combining the TV and the Internet in some way, but this early iteration probably won't get Joe Consumer to log in.

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