Vodafone has announced Webbox, an internet-enabled keyboard intended to turn a regular TV into an "internet portal". Based around a 14 x 25 cm QWERTY 'board with an RCA connection for the TV, the Vodafone Webbox packs the Opera Mini 5.1 browser together with support for SMS and email messaging, an FM radio, photo gallery and a music player.
Video demo after the cut
Connectivity is via an integrated GSM/EDGE modem (no 3G), though thanks to Opera's compression technology - which can shrink pages by up to 90-percent - Vodafone still reckons that speeds should be palatable. The carrier will preload bookmarks suited to its entry-level audience, including online news, dictionary, social networks, some games and a rudimentary application service.
While we can see many users being keen on the idea, Vodafone is targeting emerging markets with the Webbox, at least initially. South Africa will get the internet keyboard first, from next week, with broader availability in 2011. It will be priced at around €75, with a free 2GB SD card and data purchased on pre-paid SIM.
Vodafone launches Webbox – an innovative plug and play keyboard, bringing internet to your television
Vodafone today announces the launch of the Vodafone Webbox, the first device of its kind, bringing affordable internet access to a customer’s existing television set, just by plugging in a keyboard.
The Webbox is a Vodafone innovation developed specifically for customers in emerging markets, where technology and cost barriers often exclude many from enjoying affordable, ready internet access at home or in the workplace. A sleek, black, 14 x 25cm QWERTY keyboard, the Webbox uses standard RCA connectors to plug into the television. With no set-up required, the plug and play keyboard converts any standard domestic television into an internet portal.
Patrick Chomet, Vodafone’s Group Director of Terminals said: “The Webbox is a simple yet very innovative product. It has the potential to make a powerful difference in the lives of people in emerging markets who have limited access to the internet, but where TV penetration is typically very high. The simplicity of the product is striking – it brings the internet to the TV, be that at home for the family, in schools for education or in small businesses to assist local economic growth.”
The Webbox home screen allows the customer to navigate easily between the core services: Opera Mini 5.1 internet access; SMS and email messaging; internet search and media services including FM radio and a photo gallery tool, as well as a music player.
The Webbox Opera Mini browser runs over the 2.5G and EDGE mobile networks, compressing data by around 90% and so serving fast-loading internet pages. The browser homepage comes with bookmarks such as news, sport and social networking sites as well as locally relevant apps such as a job search and application service. In addition, the portal comes with some games, a dictionary and a basic text editor.
In South Africa, Vodacom has today announced that they will start selling the Webbox from next week. Other markets across Vodafone’s emerging market footprint will launch in 2011.
Notes to Editors
Opera Mini is available across 20 markets, preloaded onto 32 handsets and downloadable to a total of 278 devices. There have been 9 million downloads of the Vodafone Opera Mini browser to date.
Watch a Webbox quick demo and hear Patrick Chomet talking about it here: www.youtube.com/vodafonemedia
Cost example: Vodacom will retail the Webbox at a one-off unit cost of R749 (c €75) with a free 2GB SD card, and prepaid SIM with R12 data credit.
Vodafone’s Webbox won a prestigious Universal Design Award Consumer Favourite 2011, so being credited for its usability, learning curve, flexibility, security as well as affordability.
The Webbox will be exhibited at the Vodafone stand at Mobile World Congress 2011.