By David Dorf on Apr 02, 2009
When I worked for Schlumberger, my boss was a Frenchman based in Paris. He told me about the Minitel, a precursor to the Web launched in France back in 1982. It was a dumb terminal connected to the phone line via modem with a simple keyboard. Phone customers were given the device for free instead of white pages. The Minitel could search for phone numbers, get stock quotes, make purchases, and chat.
When he was a bachelor, my boss (Jean-Marc) used the Minitel to manage his shopping list. Then once a week, he'd hit "send" and the order would go to a nearby grocery store where they would pick and deliver his food. It was a good system until one day he didn't notice the store changed all it's product numbers. He was quite surprised when the diapers, kitty litter, and tampons were delivered.
Nevertheless, you can't beat the convienence of a small terminal in the kitchen, which is exactly what Verizon Wireless is hoping for with their new Verizon Hub. Its a fairly standard VOIP phone with desktop widgets and interesting services which are better reviewed elsewhere. Its target segment is Verizon Wireless customers that will trade their landline for a VOIP phone with tight integration to their wireless phones.
When I first saw this device, I thought it would be a perfect next-generation Minitel, where my family could easily access information in the kitchen without a PC. But this device doesn't have a browser or an email client, and that makes it really tough to buy groceries.