I bought my Mom a WebTV* many years ago, when it first came out. It fills a need: an appliance to access the web simple enough for everyone. At least, that should be the selling proposition.
I mean, just because she wants to use the web and send me email, Mom should not have to know how to upgrade to the latest version of Windows. Or patch. Or worry about the virus-of-the-week. To make that happen, she needs a box that isn't configurable, isn't expandable, that "just works".
WebTV would be just the ticket, if it didn't suck so much. Here's what it would have to do to not suck:
- Work with providers other than MSN.
- Support broadband (i.e., the freaking box needs an ethernet port).
- Have video output that can drive a HDTV: Component video, VGA, DVI or HDMI.
- [Extra credit] Support USB (so you can use a modern printer, and maybe CF readers).
- [Bonus Round] Support more data types (e.g. PDF) without opening Pandora's box.
I know about Cidco's mailstation (which is apparently not available anymore), and I've seen some other boxes that could fill the bill if someone would provision and support them properly. BTW, my Mom would still happily pay the 22 bucks per month — that's what Microsoft is extorting from her now.
[*] Now it's called msnTV, of course, but I refuse to call it that.