Bits & Bytes
SURE, THE VIDEOPHONE IS AT HAND--BUT SO IS THE PC-VIDEOPHONE
For years, computer mavens have talked about fusing PC, video, and telephone technology. Now, IBM's Tokyo-based subsidiary is doing it. Working with GC Technology Inc., a Tokyo chipmaker, IBM Japan has built video-conferencing functions directly into a PC. It hopes to market the machine by yearend. With support from Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. and Japan's postal ministry, the two companies have also created a research group aimed at establishing their system as a standard.
Such hybrid PC-videophones could have strong appeal in Japan, where businessmen prefer to deal with one another face to face. And besides transmitting live images, the new PCs might be ideal for combing future data bases that store video images along with text. Instead of today's monochromatic electronic mail, the new PCs might let users splice color video information directly into text messages. But all of this will come at a price: The first systems are expected to go for as much as $7,500, compared with just $1,500 for American Telephone & Telegraph Co.'s consumer-oriented videophones.EDITED BY JOHN W. VERITY