Online Access for Couch Potatoes

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Surfing has never been so easy.

La-Z-Boy and Microsoft's WebTV Networks have teamed to market the wired Explorer e-cliner.

The recliner, which retails for $1,049 to $1,299, comes with two months of WebTV Plus service, allowing consumers to surf the Net while watching television, exchange e-mail and watch about 500 hours of interactive TV programs per week.

A foldout table that swings up and out from the armrest houses a built-in keyboard. The battery-operated keyboard interacts with the WebTV Plus Internet Receiver via an infrared beam so there are no wires. The chair comes with a data port with high-speed access for laptop computer users. The right armrest conceals a beverage and magazine holder.

"This relationship allows WebTV Networks and La-Z-Boy to claim new territory and reach new audiences," said Kevin Wixted, director of marketing at La-Z-Boy. WebTV's primary audience is adults age 25 to 54, and 57 percent of its households are married couples. A majority of WebTV's customers do not have another online service.

"This is for people who are not on the Internet. WebTV is a replacement for the PC in your home," Wixted said.

The two companies are not just marketing this product to casual Net surfers. They see it as attractive for people who work at home.

"It also has an active telephone line, where you could plug in your laptop. It could become the most comfortable home office," Wixted said.

Sixty-three percent of its 1 million subscribers use WebTV daily, while 86 percent use it weekly.

Of WebTV's subscriber base, 23 percent earn more than $75,000 a year; 22 percent earn $50,000 to $75,000; 26 percent earn $30,000 to $50,000; and 28 percent earn less than $30,000 a year.

WebTV says its customers are shoppers: Forty-five percent have made at least one purchase via WebTV.

Wixted said La-Z-Boy developed the Explorer as one in a series of "innovative" products with features requested by customers. This tech-savvy chair comes on the heels of La-Z-Boy's Oasis "ultimate sports fan" chair, which features a refrigerated unit in the armrest that fits six beverage cans.

La-Z-Boy is not planning any online or offline advertising for the new chair, besides in-store ads and information on its Web site.

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