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A Mint On The Pillow And Net Access, Too


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A MINT ON THE PILLOW AND NET ACCESS, TOO

THE INTERNET SEEMS TO BE everywhere these days. On Apr. 2, Fourth Communication Network Inc., an Internet service provider in San Jose, Calif., introduced its latest access service, called @Hotel. Designed for the $4 billion lodging industry, @Hotel will offer guests access to the World Wide Web via in-room Pentium PCs or through the room's TV. The @Hotel server in the hotel's basement will use "T1" phone lines, which pass data at 1.5 megabits per second--up to 52 times faster than ordinary PC modems.

Although each hotel will have a different pricing plan, Fourth Communication Network CEO Scott W. Lewis says that, typically, guests will be charged $5 per day and 20 cents per minute of connect charges. What's more, @Hotel will charge connect fees only when the hotel's server has to retrieve information--a Web page that isn't already stored on the server, say--from the Net. Since such data retrievals take only seconds on a T1, Lewis claims a typical hour spent surfing @Hotel will cost only $6 to $10. Lewis says the company plans to have up to 50,000 rooms around the world hooked up to the Net by yearend.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top

7TH LEVEL'S NEW PLATEAU: WAR GAMES

IN THE CONTINUING BATTLE between games and educational software, chalk up one for the triggermen. Richardson (Tex.) software developer 7th Level Inc. is exiting the education market to concentrate on the already crowded realm of CD-ROM games.

The four-year-old company, which was founded by an eclectic group of concert promoters, rock musicians, and software gurus, has never turned a profit. Its Great Adventure series, programs for kids age 6-9, faced increased competition from CUC International, the Stamford (Conn.)-based mail-order house that acquired educational software leaders such as Knowledge Adventure and Davidson last year. "There was a faction in the company that felt if we focused all our resources on games, we would be better off," says co-founder George D. Grayson, who left 7th Level on Mar. 11 after the board decided to abandon the education market. The company will now concentrate on games, such as Helicops, a combat helicopter simulator, and titles based on the British comedy group Monty Python. Games accounted for 90% of 7th Level's $20.5 million in sales last year. Decent, but still just a tiny part of the $2 billion CD-ROM game market.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG Gary McWilliamsReturn to top

COUPON CLIPPERS, PREPARE TO DOWNLOAD `N SAVE

CONSUMER GIANTS SUCH AS Procter & Gamble Co. and General Mills Inc. spend millions printing coupons and stuffing them into Sunday newspapers. Distributing the coupons electronically over the Internet eliminates most of those costs--but it also invites risks. With some creative editing, for example, crafty consumers can turn a digital 10% discount coupon into savings of 90%. That's why most existing Web sites--such as H.O.T.! Coupons, Val-Pak Direct Marketing, and Kooponz--stick primarily to coupons for inexpensive items, such as cereals and shampoo. Cool Savings, a recently launched Web service, aims to broaden the use of cybercoupons.

To improve security, Cool Savings has set up a Web site, www.coolsavings.com, in which consumers must provide basic demographic information and then install free proprietary software that allows them to print out coupons. The site, which is operated by Chicago-based Interactive Coupon Network (ICN), has attracted the likes of Toys `R' Us, J.C. Penney, and Boston Market. ICN President Hillel Levin says he expects 20 more companies to participate within the next month. For the time being, the pickings are slim: The travel category has only one item from Alamo Rent-a-Car, and the section on food and beverages offers just Chuck E. Cheese's.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG Peter ElstromReturn to top


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