Mention video e-mail, and some people picture seasonal greetings from distant loved ones singing Jingle Bells over the Christmas turkey. But the images that will be flowing through AT&T WorldNet Services new video e-mail service are certain to include a large side dish of spam.
Instead of simply telling you about the beaches of Bermuda, travel agencies can send the waves lapping over your laptop. AT&T officials think consumers will continue to accept or ignore unwanted advertising as a trade-off for an entertaining new service.
"To my knowledge, there is not another Internet service provider offering this," said AT&T spokeswoman Janet Wyles. "Were the only ones to offer Internet video e-mail that doesnt require the user or receiver to load extra software."
AT&T WorldNet has stepped up its advertising lately, and sees a vast market among its 60 million long-distance customers. With AT&Ts consumer division soon to split from its wireless and broadband siblings, officials are looking for ways to broaden the services menu of the dial-up service.
Under its contract with Fremont, Calif.-based Talkway Communications, AT&T is offering 60 minutes of free video e-mail to AT&T WorldNet subscribers. While receivers need no special equipment or software, senders need only a camera and microphone, which AT&T is selling as a package for $29.95.
In the interactive TV arena, AT&T Broadband is backing off plans to introduce the next-generation DCT 5000 set-top box with software supplied by Microsoft. Instead, the nations largest cable operator will upgrade the 3 million DCT 2000 boxes already in customers homes.
On a related front, AT&T has launched a legal battle with Microsoft over software that decodes voice signals. In the lawsuit, AT&T claims that a Microsoft program violates AT&Ts patent for speech coding, which allows audio- and videoconference calls over the Internet.