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RealTime IT News

WebTV, EchoStar Debut Internet Satellite Service

At the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas Thursday, WebTV Networks Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. unveiled the Microsoft WebTV Network Plus, a satellite-based high-speed Internet service.

The system will use Microsoft's WebTV set-top box and EchoStar's DISH Network satellite service.

Slated for release this spring, the combination service and product integrates the DISH Network's digital satellite television programming with Internet service from WebTV Networks.

EchoStar said its EchoStar Model 7100 satellite receiver is the first satellite receiver that offers a built-in multigigabyte hard drive, which is able to record and play back simultaneous full-quality digital video. The receiver's disk drive provides various enhanced digital TV features, such as a TV Pause, which freezes a TV show for as long as 30 minutes, automatic recording of several hours of high-quality digital video and downloadable video games.

The companies will also offer an optional digital video recording service by the end of the year. The EchoStar Model 7100 will retail for $499.

WebTV Plus service for satellite is a broadband-enhanced version of the WebTV Plus service offering Internet access, up to six e-mail accounts and child-protection features. The EchoStar Model 7100 supports multimedia e-mail features in the WebTV Network service, allowing users to plug in a camcorder and send pictures and audio clips through e-mail.

In addition, the WebTV Plus service for satellite will offer various games such as Id Software Inc.'s "Doom," which can be updated with new gameplay features each month. The WebTV Plus service for satellite will cost $24.95 per month.

"The EchoStar Model 7100 satellite receiver is a milestone in the history of television," said Steve Perlman, president and co-founder of WebTV Networks.

"The satellite's broadband delivery capability, combined with a massive disk drive, frees viewers from a fixed TV broadcast schedule, allowing them to watch what they want, when they want.

"This capability is seamlessly integrated with the WebTV Plus service, expanding the viewing experience with high-speed Internet access and interactive television. This product is the world's first glimpse of 21st century television," Perlman said.