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Brighter Picture Is Appearing for Business Videotex.

While public videotex services continue to languish in the US, the picture for business videotex brightening. This past year has seen a major push by Digital Equipment Corporation and Honeywell into the business videotex arena, as well as significant joint-venture moves by IBM and AT&T to consolidate their leadership positions in the field. There's also been a move away from the graphics-oriented systems toward ASCII text-based services. Even AT&T, which was instrumental in establishing the North American Presentation Level Protocol Syntax (NAPLPS) standard for graphics display, has opted to go with the simpler and less-expensive ASCII approach with its latest videotex plan.

In the past year, Digital Equipment has emerged as the major force in business videotex with its VAX/VTS system. However, Honeywell Information Systems is beginning to challenge Digital for the top spot with a dedicated system based on its DPS 6 minicomputer family and low-priced, easy-to-use terminals designed exclusively for videotex applications.

Honeywell's InfoNow Videotex System, which was introduced in April, is the result of three years of research and customer trials at its Videotex Support Center in Schiller Park, Illinois, to assess the requirements and cost justifications for business videotex systems. "Our research shows that, for many companies and government agencies, an InfoNow System can pay for itself within 18 to 24 months through savings in printing, mailing and administrative costs alone," claims David Cleary, Honeywell's vice president of small computer marketing. "Additional savings in efficiency and productivity are hard to measure, but probably are even more substantial."

Cleary believes InfoNow's dedicated videotex-only function makes it easier for businesses to measure and cost-justify the system, in comparison with other suppliers' products, which bundle videotex together with other applications. Also, the DPS 6 minicomputer is unencumbered with other workloads, so it is free to deliver fast responses to hundreds of users.

Another selling point is the $650 cost of the portable Minitel terminals, which also have a small footprint on the desktop. Manufactured by the French firm Telic-Alcated, the terminals contain a fold-down keyboard designed for videotex applications with special function keys, such as SEND, NEXT and GUIDE. The nine-inch-diagonal, 4-character by 24-line display provides alphamosaic graphics, eight shades of gray, double-size/double-height characters, and blinking and inverse wideo capabilities. The terminal has a cable that plugs into the phone jack and a port for connecting the terminal to the telephone.

In addition, IBM and Honeywell PCs can be equipped as InfoNow terminals without affecting their existing functions. A VT-Link adapter board and emulation software allow a Honeywell microSystem PC, IBM PC or PC XT to function as Minitel terminals with a color display. The adaper board and Minitel terminal have a built-in split-speed modem that treansmits at 75 b/s and receives at 1200 b/s using an asynchronous, serial seven-bit code with start/stop bits.

Honeywell's research led it to choose the French Teletel approach based on the Antiope protocol over the North American Presentation Level Protocol Syntax (NAPLPS). Cleary says that his firm's research indicates that 85 to 90 percent of business applications involve textual information retrieval only.

another advantage of Telected is that it can use the Minitel terminal, which is much less expensive than NAPLPS terminals, notes Cleary. "Since costs for end-user terminals are the highest percentage of a business's videotex investment, we feel that the combination of Teletel/Antiope software and Minitel end-user terminals is the best approach right now for our target markets." Nevertheless, Cleary says he would consider designing a system in cooperation with those who prefer a NAPLPS-based system.

New Used Primarily for Business

Honeywell is targeting the InfoNow system at marketing and other large departments of major corporations, as well as distributors, manufacturers who distribute, and federal, state and local governments. Cleary quotes independent studies by Link Resources and The Gartner Group that estimate the potential gross value of the US business videotex market at $4 billion in 1985, rising to $32 billion by 1990. "There now are fewer than 200 domestic commercial videotex services, only a few of which are used primarily for business purposes," says Cleary. "Today, there is no dominant supplier, product, terminal, protocol or service. Honeywell is entering the market at the very beginning of this major growth industry."

Honeywell plans to sell InfoNow directly to corporate departments, arguing that they best understand their own needs and know how a system shouild be customized to meet those needs. To cater to these non-technical users, IntoNow employs a series of simple menus that allow users to locate the category of information they need quickly and easily without having to know anything about computer terminals or how the data base is structured. Users then find the specific pages they want by pressing clearly labeled function keys, such as NEXT, PREVIOUS and GUIDE. the central system responds in seconds with a graphic display of information on the Minitel terminal screen. The "Infobase" is made up of "pages," each of which can contain up to 99 screen displays holding up to 2,000 characters each.

As they become familiar with the system, users can enter simple abbreviated forms of the menu selections to bypass the menus. Users can also initiate a search for all pages that contain a specific key word, and then display all the pages containing the word. An exclusive feature of the InfoNew system that extends the power of key words search lets users link two or more key words together with AND, OR and NOT to provide concise page retrieval.

Two other terminal functions are involved in the InfoNew system: an "information-provider" (IP) terminal is used to create and maintain the infobase, while a system-administrator (SA) terminal is used to assign individual passwords and monitor system operation. The IP uses a Honeywell microSystem PC, or IBM PC or PC XT; the SA uses a Honeywell VIP 7201 or 7300 series terminal. Although an InfoNow system may have hundreds of Minitel terminals, only one IP/SA terminal is required.

Electronic messaging, a standard function of the InfoNow system, can be used immediately upon installation since it does not require an infobase. Users registered on the system can compose and send messages to other registered users, adding such specifications as "personal" or "important." A prompt notifies users when they have received an electronic message. InfoNow also offers an optional applications, OrderNow, for the automatic capture of the customer orders. Cleary explains that OrderNow is not an order-processing system. Rather, it allows InfoNow system users to access relevant pages of an infobase--a supplier's catalog, for example--and send an order to the InfoNow central system. Orders are transmitted later to the company's separate Honeywell or IBM-hosted order-processing system.

The three DPS 6 central systems, including InfoNow videotex software, electronic messaging and console terminal, sell for $93,000, $116,000 and $173,000, respectively. The optional OrderNow application has an initial license fee of $2500. the VT-Link adapter board is priced at $720, including built-in modem, while the required terminal emulation software comes on a 5.25-inch diskette and carries an initial license fee of $25, including a keyboard overlay. Typically, an InfoNow system with enough terminals or adapters to support 500 end users costs around $500,000.

Honeywell also offers a trial program for prospective users using its videotex demonstration and support center in Schiller Park, near Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Scores of user companies have worked with the center since it was opened in May 1983 for trial installations as well as for consultation and demonstrations. Honeywell provides computer time, page storage and technical assistance at no charge, and requires users only to purchase Minitel terminals or VT-Link boards for their PCs and to commit some staff resources for the trial period.

VideoPrint, the videotex industry newsletter, rates Honeywell's chance of success with InfoNow as "excellent." Honeywell has the "best-researched sales approach in the videotex industry," the newsletter, which is published by International Resource Development of Norwalk. Connecticut, says that Honeywell may have several large contracts is the offing.

"Honeywell executives themselves have apparently been caught by surprise by InfoNow's popularity," the newsletter states. When the product was announced, these executive expected prospective clients to want to run test infobases using the firm's demonstration system at its videotex center in Schiller Park. "However, several clients are skipping this test phase and buying systems immediately."

Digital Favors ASCII

Honeywell's approach differs from that of rival Digital in its support of the French Antiope protocol and the use of a dedicated computer. Digital's VAX/VTS videotex system can run as one of several applications on a VAX processor and can support any graphics protocol. To date, however, most sales have been for ASCII applications. Digital argues that ASCII will be the dominant corporate videotex standard because it allows corporations to use their existing populations of PCs and other ASCII terminals. In contract, Honeywelll believes that many of the ASCII terminals will soon be replaced by PCs, which can be easily adapted to handl Antiope graphics. What's more, corporations have thousands of employees who need information but who do not rate a PC or expensive ASCII terminal. Since the Telic-alcatel terminal costs only a third that of a PC, corporations may be able to afford to place Minitels on those thousands of new desks.

Digital claims to be the worlds leader in providing computer systems for videotex applications. More than 50 percent of all videotex systems installed worldwide use Digital computer systems, it says. Digital's VAX computer systems are useful in videotex applications because of their networking across the entire computer line. Networking allows videotex information to be shared among many systems, while the common architecture allows an organization to develop a videotex application on a small VAX system and move it to a large machine as the user base grows.

Digital began studying videotex in 1982 with an internal indeotex that has since grown to be the world's largest private videotex system, with over 50 videotex infobases located throughout Noirth America, Europe, Japan and Austrilia. While the infobases are scattered around the globe, the system presents he user with a single infobase. When the user specifies a page that is stored remotely, the system tracks down the page and forwards it to the user via DECnet. Since pages are stored in multiple languages, the system also determines the appropriate language based on the userhs location. The infobases contain a wide range of information, including sales and competitive information, newsletters, travel information and various specialized infobases for purchasing and other departments that have special security features.

Having amassed a wealth of market research data on the strengths and weaknesses oif videotex systems and which features corporate users are likely to want, Digital was ready last year to introduce VAX/VTX videotex software for large, distributed applications and Pro/Videotex software for its Professional desktop computer. VAX/VTX offers simple menu choices that let users quickly select videotex information, no matter where it is resident on a network. Even if the information is on a computer thiat is half-way around the world, it will appear as if it were located on the local computer.

As for infobase maintenance, any authorized office worker with normal typing skills can update and add new pages of videotex information. For security purposes, VAX/VTX requires authorization by specific individuals before accepting infobase changes.

VAX/VTX supports, the major videotex graphics standards, including NAPLPS and Britain's Prestel, and is easily modified to accept others.

In addition, VAX/VTX works with All-in-1, Digital's VAX-based integrated office and information system, which provides word processing, electronic mail and other file and information-management functions. When running VAX/VTX with All-in-1, a single desktop terminal or workstation has access to an "electronic bookshelf" of videotex information through All-in-1's master menu. VAX/VTX also provides key-word-access capabilities and supports DECtalk, Digital's text-to-speech synthesizer, which converts computer information to speech. VAX/VTX software is priced at $9,000 for MicroVax systems, $25,000 for a VAX/11/730 through 11/785 systems and $37,500 for the VAX 8600.

Single-User System

At the other end of the size scale, Pro/Videotex is a single-user videotex system that runs on Digital's Pro/353 and 380 desktop computers. Digital says Pro/Videotex is particularly useful for geographically distributed videotex applications, such as a nationwide network of autoparts warehouses, where it would be expensive to maintain constant connection to a central videotex system. Because the infobase is in the desktop computer, communications costs and access times are minimized, yet information can be easily updated directly from a central videotex system over telephone lines, or by inserting a floppy disk with the new information in the workstation. Pro/Videotex requires a 10-megabyte hard disk and the Extended Bit Map Option, and is priced at $895.

Digital has also made its VAX/VTX system available to users of its 38 time-sharing centers. The service is geared to two types of users: organizations wanting to try videotex without committing to a significant purchase, and buyers of VAX/VTX systems wanting to get a head start on designing applications while waiting for delivery and set up. For $3,000 a month, a user gets 100 connect hours of timesharing, three million characters of on-line disk storage, use of the VAX/VTX and other Digital software, unlimited CPU "think time," telephone support, VAX/VTX documentation and a four-hour startup advisory session.

Sperry and Wang, Too

Rival computer suppliers, Sperry Corporation and Wang Labs, also offer videotex software for use on their systems. Sperry introduced its Videotex 1100 system last November to run on its 1100/60 through 1100/90 mainframes. Using Videotex 1100, organizations can operate private videotex services within a closed grouip or community, a or they can link Sperry 1100 mainframes to either public or private videotex services as external computers allowing access to Series 1100-based applications, software and data bases.

Videotex 1100 support Prestel and the European CEPT standard, although Sperry says it is also committed to support all major videotex standards, including NAPLPS, across the entire Series 1100 product line. Videotex 1100 allows users toi access information in three ways: hierarchial search, direct access or keyword access. Sperry also offers four special software products to allow its personal computer to access both sperry and non-Sperry videotex systems. On-line to a Sperry videotex system, the software allows users to access videotex information in an 1100 system data base. In off-line mode, the software creates frames and provides display capabilities for the Sperry PC as a stand-alone videotex display.

Wang Labs offers a $250 Prestel software terminal emulator, equipping a Wang PC to retrieve Prestel videotex frames from both public videotex services and private in-house videotex systems. The Wang PC can display the frmaes on a color monitor, providing up to eight colors and full blinking for highlihgting portions of the text or graphics. About 2500 videotex frames can be stored on the PC's Winchester disk, and more than 300 frames on a diskette. Users can produce a hard copy of the frame with black-and-white shaded printing from a locally attached dot-matrix printer.

IBM Goes to School In-House

IBM has also been "going to school" on an in-house vidoetex system for its executives over the past three years. Its main videotex product is the Series 1 Videotex System (SVS/1), which supports both Prestel and NAPLPS display protocols. It can also connect to ASCII services and handle other important functions such as electronic mail. One feature of SVS/1 enables organizations to use their videotex terminals for office teleconferencing. For instance, a videotex user in one location can present information on new products or business procedures simultaneously on multiple videotex displays in other locations, while voice communications is conducted through normal telephone conference-call hookups. SVS-1 also has a "billboard" capability that allows continuous viewing of a sequence of information. Frames of information in a billboard advance automatically, enabling users to conduct unattended product and service demonstrations.

IBM also offers an interactive communications facility called PC/Videotex that equips members of the IBM PC family for use as a videotex terminal. PC/Videotex supports NAPLPS graphics and allows videotex frames to be captured and stored in a library on a disk for replay later. IBM's PC/Coilorview program also allows users of IBM PCs to view color ASCII videotex information interactivily on-line with a videotex host, or to retrieve previously stores videotex information from local files resident on diskette or fixed disk.

Large Joint Venture

Last year, IBM gave videotex a major boost by joining with CBS and Sears in a venture "to develop a broadly based videotex service that can be used by people with home and personal computers to access information, send messages across town or cross-country, and perform two-way transactions such as shopping and banking." Analysts were quick to see synergy in the joint venture: IBM with its knowledge of hardware, software and data networks; Sears with its customer base and billing and marketing skills; and CBS with experience in publishing, subscription services and advertising. In addition, CBS learned a great deal from its joint videotex experiment with AT&T in Ridgewood, New Jersey, the previous year. Despite the corporat affiliations, though, the services are meant to be carried on all kinds of computer terminals, not just those of IBM. Also, the firm intends to offer a wide variety of services, not just information and entertainment programming from CBS or products from Sears and its brokerage subsidiary, Dean Witter Reynolds.

Two Major Goals

Each partner has an equal interest in the venture, known as Trintex. However, an IBM officer, vice president and 32-year company veteran, Theodore Papes, was named president and chief executive officer of the company, which is headquartered on White Plains, New York. Trintex says it has two equally important goals: "One is to enhance the changing life style of todayhs American Family by providing a value-added, affordable service that is comprehensive, responsive, reliable and can save family members time and money. The other is to improve marketing and distribution efficiency among commercial sponsors by delivering a large, diverse audience that can be precisely targeted for messages, products and other offerings." Because of the considerable software and hardware development needed, it's unlikely that services will be available for some time. However, a spokesman said the services will not require a special terminal and will be open to a wide varity of advertisers, retailers, publishers and financial service providers.

AT&T recently bolstered its position as a videotex leader by joining with Bank of America, Chemical Bank and Time, Inc. to develop, produce and nationally market electronic banking, brokerage and other services to consumers and small businesses. Marketing of the services is expected to begin by the end oif the summer in California and New York, home of the two banks in the partnership, and in other areas by year's end.

Interestingly, AT&T has dropped its own NAPLPS standard in favor of ASCII for the service. Still to be decided, though, is whether the venture conflicts with the consent decree that AT&T reached with the Justice Department as part of its divestiture. The decree includes a seven-year ban on AT&T engaging in electronic publishing using its own transmission facilities. It's unclear, though, if AT&T might be allowed to participate in the venture because because its stake is less than 50 percent.

Last year, AT&T joined with the UK's Aregon International to develop a comprehensive, multipurpose videotex software package. Known as AT&T IVS-5, the software supports a variety of computer-based information services using either NAPLPS, Prestel or ASCII protocols. AT&T Information Systems has the US marketing rights for the software. In separate contracts, AT&T-IS assigned the rights to market IVS-5 outside the US to AT&T International, which, in turn, signed Aregon to market and support the software internationaly. The software runs on Digital Equipment's VAX superminis under the VMS operating system, and supports from eight to 500 simultaneous users. It interfaces with AT&T's Sceptr terminals, as well as with Prestel and Digital's VT100 terminals.

AT&T's Sceptre terminal features a remote keypad that connects to the TV set by infrared beam. The terminal incorporates a customer-programmabel five-telephone-number autodialer and accommodates a call-waiting display function. If other calls come in while the system is in use, users can pick up the call or call back later. Also, with an encryption/security feature, those who use bank-at-home or similar services can code their transactions for private accessing of their accounts.

Public Services Debut

AT&T's Sceptre terminal is used in the Viewtron videotex service operated by Viewdata Corporation of America in the southern part of Florida. Viewtron offers at-home shopping and banking, up-to-date news and stock quotes, an entire encyclopedia, restaurant menus and the like. To counter slow subscription sales, the firm dropped the subscription price 40 percent in March, from $39.95 to $24.95 per month. The price includes use of a videotex terminal and five free hours of Viewtron. After five hours, the charge is $1 per hour.

In May, the firm attempted to further broaden the subscriber base by making Viewtron available on home computers. As part of an introductory offer, free software was mailed to owners of Commodore 64s and Apple IIs living in souithern Florida. Commodore 64 owners can now avail thermselves of a low-cost starter kit consisting of a modem, proprietary software and three hours free use of Viewtron.

Viewtron shopping and information categories include major retailers, travel agencies, airlines, restaurants, real estate egencies, florists, banks, brokerage firms, auto dealerships aand caterers. Also computers from major corporations around the country are linked to Viewtron computers in Miami by gateway arrangements, providing subscribers with merchandise ordering, banking, stock market quotations and protfolio status travel planning and access to an electronic encyclopedia.

Varity of Business Information

Viewdata's parent, Knight-Ridder, also operates the world's largest newspaper data bank. Vu/Text Information Services, headquartered in Philadelphia, provides on-lin access to the text of 17 daily newspapers, many of which use the service as their own electronic library. Another 15 daily papers are scheduled to join the service this year. Vu/Text also provides access to the weekly Wall Street Transcritp, the full text of the Associated Press Datastream, PR News-wire and Mediawire. Business information is available in summary form from more than 2,000 trade publications and business journals, while Vu/Quote offers the most comprehensive quotes for stcoks and commodites available on any on-line service, according to the company.

In Orange County, California, Times Mirror Videotex Services is offering a Viewtron-like videotex service called Gateway, while in Chicago, Keycom Electronic Publishing provides an interactive information service, called Keyfax, for business and home users with dedicated videotex terminals or personal computers. Times Mirror Videotex Services decided to introduce Gateway based on what it calls "overwhelmingly positive results" from a comprehensive nine-month field trial conducted with 350 households in soiuthern California. The trial results revealed that participants want a considerable array of information and services that will keep them informed, save time and money, and, to some degree, keep them entertained.

Gateway is represented to national advertisers by Videotex America, which is a partnership between Times Mirror Video Services and Infomart of Toronto. Videotex ads takes many forms, from brief messages and logos on index pages that direct users to parts of the data base to sponsorship of information or games.

Gateway reportedly got off to a slow start in subscription sales. However, since the first of the year, Gateway has increased its telemarketing and direct-mail advertising and has upgraded its investment services. According to spokesperson Penny Jo Welsch, sales have picked up and most subscribers are staying with the service. Gateway's advertisers are also reporting good response, she says. Gateway also expects two major improvements to boost subscription sales and usage: electronic banking with Security Pacific National Bank and the availability of commercial software terminal emulators for IBM and other PCs.

Keyfax supports both NAPLPS and ASCII display protocols, making it accessible to virtually all home computers. Its NAPLPS terminal, made be Honeywell subsidiary Synertek, retails for $350, compared with the $600 for AT&T's Sceptre terminal. Software to receive the ascii version of the data base, without graphics, costs $60. As a convenience for subscribers, Keycom offers the software with a 300-b/s modem for $160.

In April, centel Corporation announced that it had acquired Honeywell's ownership interest in Keycom Electronic Publishing and that it would continue to develop the service as well as additional business-to-business and special-interest videotex services for a variety of markets. In mid-June, Centel annouinced that while it would continue to provide Keyfax service to existing and over-the-transom consumer subscribers, it would discontinue active consumer marketing. As a spokesman explained to CN, "The consumer end of the market is further out than we had hioped it would be, so we're now targeting niche market such as a weather-information service for businesses like farming."

One of the more popular videotex applications is electronic home banking. In California, Bank of America has over 17,000 subscribers to its HomeBanking service. As an ASCII service, HomeBanking is compatible with virtually every personal computer on the market. Subscribers can use their personal computers to transfer funds between accounts, check their account balances, review checking account statements and pay bills to companies in more than 600 categories. The cost is only $8 a month, and there are no line charges.

In New York, Chemical Bank's Pronto service and Citibank's Home Base offers similar services for monthly fees of $u2 and $10, respectively. Chemical Bank has attracted 21,000 household and small business users to Pronto, making it the largest such service in the country. Home Base subscribers can also access the Dow Jones News and Information Service for and additional $10 a month.

Chase Manhattan Bank combines banking and brokerage services in its Spectrum offering. Subscribers who pay $5 a month for the basic banking service get a disk-based terminal-emulation program that runs on any IBM PC or compatible unit, Apple II or Commodore 64. The basic service includes on-line checking and bill paying, electronic mail and information on the latest bank rates. The investment services cost an additional $5 a month for on-line trading, a symbol directory, quotes and market indicators.

Among securities firms, E.F. Hutton offers an on-line service called Hutton-line, which gives its clients access to portfolio and account information, stock quotes, proprietary investment research and electronic mail.

Niche Markets Bloom

TextLink of Chantilly, Virginia, takes a different tack by creating customized electronic information networks for corportions, professional associations and common interest groups. Design, implementation and management of the user's data base on TextLink's host computer allows the startup of an on-line service without capital investment in a mini or mainframe computer, software or networks.

TextLink is a subsidiary of Comtex Scientific Corporation, an electronic publishing company based on computerized dissemination of news-retrieval services and scientific documents, and Retrieval systems Associates, a software research and development firm. TextLink clients may use its services to improve internal electronic communications, or to market their information products externally. Along with the custom data bases TextLink creates and manages, users can add on-line services, including electronic mail, bullitin boards, transaction capability, gateways and news services.

Another niche market for videotex is the supply of business-to-business information services. Videolong Communications of Norwalk, Connecticut, for instance, has developed an on-line parts catalog for the electronics industry that allows design, standards and components engineers to access current data on more than 500,000 semiconductors. Videolog uses the NAPLPS graphics protocol so that users can view full-color displays of logic and circuit diagrams, component shapes and performance charts on their PC screens. Effectively, Videolog is a vehicle for showing short form catalogs, product brochures, some data sheets, product news and distribution outlets.

President Alan Brigish says that the service stresses "currency of information" along with two-way communications. Users can get in contant with the marketing department of a company with an electronic mail technique called InfoGram, wihci Brigish believes could eventually rival telemarketing and In-WATS.

Videotex Thrives in UK

Videotex continues to thrive in Britain, the country where it all began. British Telecom's public Prestel service now has more than 55,000 terminals connected to it, with almost 50 percent of the terminals in the homes. Users have access to 330,000 pages of information supplied by 1200 sources, covering a wide range of data from news and sports to commerce, business and industry. In addition, there are many specialized services such as electronic messaging, home banking, home shopping and a growing number of commercial applications developed for the needs of business and industry.

In addition, British Telecom has been adding new capabilities and services to Prestel. The service now offers 51 gateways to third-party computers; in March, British Telecom announced a new access network to speed service response to less than a half a second and extend the availability of the service at local-call rates. The new access network will support full-duplex operation at bit rates of 1200/75, 300/300, 1200/1200 and 2400/2400 b/s, and error correction will be available as an option for terminals with the appropriate software. All standard asynchronous terminals would be supported on the network, which will offer more than 96 percent of the country's phone users connection at the local-call rate.

One of the pioneers of private videotex systems in the UK, ROCC Computers (formerly Rediffusion Computers), recently unveiled its "fourth generation of videotex host computer and software." The R2850 utilizes a new videotex operating system and a videotex application system called Corporate Videotex System. The R2850 employs a powerful bitslice control computer with 1.6-Mips performance, to which is connected a number of videotex network processors, which handle the videotex terminals, as well as other task processors. Each R2850 provides 48 videotex ports, typically serving a terminal population of 480, and the computers can be networked to provide multiples of 48 ports. In turn, the R2850 can be networked with other computers, as well as other networking systems.

French Make Videotex Pay

France is vying with Britain as the country with the greatest videotex activity. France's most-publicized program is its electronic directory service, which uses a small display terminal, called a Minitel, given away free of charge by the French telecommunications authority. In April, the 750,000 French persons with videotex terminals spent 930,000 hours using the French electronic directory and videotex systems. This traffic earned the French PTT $3.36 million in network usage charges, and, since more terminals are continualkly being distributed, these figures are expected to double a year from now. In fact, Georges Nahon, managing director of Intelmatique, expects the French PTT to fully capitalize its investment within four years, by which time more than half of French telephone users still will not have terminals. The profits from the system can be enormous.

Another French success is the "smart card," a plastic card with an embedded computer chip that combines both computational capability and non-volatile memory. The card is also available with a magnetic sripe sot that it can be used in traditional automated teller machines as well as special terminals that add to or debit from the cash balance in the chip.

Among the French companies active in the US is Videodial, headquartered in New York City, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Telesystems in France. Among the organizations currently licensed to use Videodial's TSV 5000 software for IBM mainframes are Trintex, General Foods Corporation for an in-house videotex system, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for a public access system to provide airport travelers with information.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Edwards, M.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1985
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