Tempting task drawing 'newbies' on to the Net
Hong Kong companies are experimenting with different techniques to lure the novice user on to the Internet.
These include PCs pre-installed with Internet software and a choice of local ISPs to demonstration centres where beginners can get comfortable with the Web at no cost or risk.
For the new Internet user, starter disks may seem like an unexpected invitation to a potentially fun party. Starter disks usually include software which helps the user automatically login to the ISP for the first time, sign up for a complimentary account with some free hours, and download essential Internet utilities like Netscape Navigator, Eudora, FTP and Telnet.
Local magazines have not yet begun to bag and bundle starter disks with their magazines. But on many local retailers' shelves, you can find starter disks for various ISPs.
WorldLink starter disks can be bought at KPS. A software retailer, Take 5, sells AsiaNet's starter disk, DynaSurf, which includes special Chinese-language Internet utilities.
Microsoft recently created its own starter disk bundle called the Internet Starter Kit. Available in both English and Chinese versions, the kit provides CD-ROM based tutorials and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 2.0 browser.
The real bonus for users paying the $99 street price is one month of free Internet access to any of seven ISPs, as well as a waiver of the sign-up fee.
The ISPs include ABC, Chevalier, HKNet, Hong Kong Star Internet, Hong Kong SuperNet, LingAGE Online and WorldLink.
Apple is also releasing its own version, called the Apple Internet Connection Kit.
Another tactic is to bundle a dial-up software kit with peripherals or computers. Users who buy a Hayes Accura 28.8 Kilobits-per-second can get a Hongkong Telecom IMS Netvigator starter kit, which includes Netscape Navigator and other Internet and Web access software, and one free month of unlimited use of Netvigator.
Internet roaming, or the ability to access your ISP from different parts of the world, has become the most hyped ISP feature this summer.
IBM Global Network, which already boasts low-cost roaming to 580 different cities around the world, tends to bundle its starter disks with peripherals like modems.
USRobotics, Practical Peripherals and Hayes are some of the modems that bundle IBM's starter diskette with their modems.
Apple's Internet Starter Kit will come as standard on all Macintoshes released in Asia.
Some diversified telecommunication companies are attempting to hook their customers on more than one service. ABCNet and Hong Kong Star Internet both also offer paging services, for example.
Last September Star introduced e-mail paging. For $50 a year subscribers receive pages whenever they receive an e-mail.
Users with display pagers can read the e-mail sender's name and the subject of the e-mail.
Star would not disclose how many Internet or paging subscribers it had signed up as a result of its e-mail paging service.
Another Star Internet innovation is its five demonstration centres.
At the demonstration centre in Central, fittingly located next to the World Wide House, Internet neophytes can come in and surf the Web for free on any of twelve Macintosh computers.