Zenith launches Net TVs

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Zenith Electronics Corp. this fall will start marketing TVs with Internet access technology. The TVs, dubbed "NetVision," feature a trackball remote control, optional wireless keyboard and modem. The 27-inch model is expected to retail for $999.95; the 35-inch model, with an ethernet port for cable modem connection, is priced at $3499.95. Both TVs use technology from startup company Diba, Belmont, Calif., Diba founder Farzad Dibachi left Oracle Corp., another developer of Internet appliance technology, to start Diba last year. Oracle this week announced plans for standards for its network computer devices, cheap boxes whose main purpose will be to access the Internet.

Garfield, Linn & Co., Chicago, agency of record for Zenith's comsumer electronics business, said it expects to handle the NetVision TV business this year. Zenith Electronics did not disclose marketing plans.

Analysts have been skeptical of the future of both types of Internet devices. Net TVs may suffer from slow modems and poor screen quality; there's also the problem of convincing consumers to use their TVs like computers. Network computers, meanwhile, face critics who say the devices' limited functionality is a detraction, not an advantage.

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