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News Feature
WebTV To Swap 'Fried' Boxes for New Ones


By Dexter Davenport
(September 24, 2000)

Audio Interview
9/17/2000

Sharon Frinks, Product Manager for WebTV Networks Inc., told Net4TV Voice the details of WebTV's "Dead Box Swap" in an audio interview. .

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WebTV Networks has told Net4TV Voice that it will replace older WebTV boxes that were permanently disabled during the recent 2.5 upgrade. The box swap program will provide users with new WebTV units, if their box was disabled by the WebTV upgrade and can't be restored by software codes provided by WebTV Customer Service. For subscribers who have already replaced upgrade-fried boxes with a new ones via the "Triple Play" promotion, WebTV Networks will provide a refund or release them from the three-year service commitment.

During WebTV's upgrade this summer, some users' boxes lost the ability to connect to the WebTV Networks Service. Some users reported getting the message "Failure Fetching Cache." One WebTVer reported that the WebTV Customer Service Representative referred to the problem as a "brain-dead box." Net4TV Voice reported the problem in a User Alert: Failure Fetching Cache.

WebTV told Net4TV Voice that they've been unable to isolate the actual cause of the problem, although it is likely due to the upgrade software. Some boxes can be resurrected by punching a button sequence. WebTVers who call with an upgrade-disabled box will be led through the process of resurrecting the box first. If that fails, WebTV will replace the box with an equivalent new unit.

For example, the owner of an Original Sony WebTV Classic that died during an upgrade could turn it in for the newest Sony WebTV Classic. The Original Plus Unit owners would receive the New Plus unit. Both the Sony and Philips Original Plus and Original Classic are eligible if disabled by the upgrade. WebTV Networks said that the new Plus and Classic and the DishPlayer were not affected by the problem.

Owners of brain-dead boxes who have already upgraded to new boxes under the Triple Play offer which provided a rebate equivalent to a free box and keyboard, are eligible for the box swap program. WebTV will either reimburse the user, or drop the three-year requirement. Under Triple Play, one of the requirements is that a user subscribes to the WebTV Networks Service for three years, and users who cancel their service early will face a penalty.

WebTV was unclear what would happen if a user went out and bought a new box and didn't take advantage of Triple Play to do it. But they indicated they would likely refund the users' money.

Users who have WebTV boxes that were disabled by the upgrade should call 1-800-GO-WebTV. Note that the Customer Service Representatives will be able to see from the service records if the box has been unable to connect, and will first try software codes to resurrect it before providing the new box.

In related news, WebTV announced that it will be releasing a new upgrade to the Echostar DishPlayer that will clear up some of the connections and video issues that users have been experiencing. This upgrade does not contain the instant messaging, Real Audio G2, or Windows Media Player. WebTV has not yet been able to provide a schedule for the release of those features to the DishPlayer.

Net4TV Voice Editorial: WebTV Does the Right Thing.


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