At first blush, it seems like the answer to consumers' resistance to home banking: marry a computer to a television set, and let people pay bills with a remote control as they watch shows.
The question: Will it catch on?
In the last month, two companies have brought to market giant-screen televisions that also function as personal computers, CD-ROM players, videocassette recorders, and Internet access devices.
One of them, NetTV of San Rafael, Calif., is marketing its product heavily to banks, touting its benefits as a home banking channel.
Now that the technology is available for consumers to bank through their television sets - and to browse the Internet, watch a movie, or listen to music at the same time - bankers and others are asking whether the newfangled interactive contraptions will appeal to consumers as anything other than purveyors of entertainment.
If customers take to the idea, the new televisions could become an important vehicle for banking transactions, company officials say, especially among people who view computers as alien species.
"The biggest significance of the product is that there's going to be a huge surge in the number of people who are going on-line," said Ronald M. Perkes, founder and chief executive officer of NetTV.
"We are trying to build a product that my grandma and grandpa could use just as easily as the typical computer user could."
Mr. Perkes introduced his first interactive television product - which is slightly more complicated to use than the one he envisions for his grandparents - at the Online Banking Association conference in Santa Clara, Calif., last week. Called "Worldvision," it starts at $2,995 and comes in three large-screen sizes: 29, 33, and 37 inches.
"I urged bankers to look ahead to the point where consumers of all types will be using this kind of system, instead of the core group of computer types," he said.
Mr. Perkes also suggested that bankers buy his televisions for their branches, where they could be promotional vehicles for Web sites and home banking products.
But the real boon, he said, would be for consumers.
"You can be doing some light work, like paying some bills, while you've got some light entertainment going on in the background, a la some television," Mr. Perkes said.
NetTV's first generation of so-called supertelevisions is being sold through retailers like Computer City, Fry's Electronics, and Price Costco.
The 20-month-old NetTV was a month later to market than the "Destination multimedia theater system" from the personal computer maker Gateway 2000.
This system, with a 31-inch monitor and a price ranging from $3,499 to $4,699, also lets viewers watch television and connect to the Internet or run a PC application at the same time.
But Gateway 2000 is touting its machine as an entertainment or corporate presentation device, not as a home banking channel.
Competition to sell interactive televisions is likely to intensify soon.
Mitsubishi Consumer Electronics announced plans to sell its version of a PC television by next summer. The company also predicts that by 2000, every big-screen set it sells will have Internet-surfing capability.
And Thomson Consumer Electronics, the Paris-based owner of RCA, said in April it was testing a $5,000 interactive television called the RCA Genius Theatre II, to be sold commercially next year.
Microsoft and Sony also have said they will compete in the arena.
James M. Shelton, executive director of the Online Banking Association, said the new products will jump-start home banking and enable banks to work wonders with their Web sites.
"The convergence of the PC and the TV is extremely exciting and offers some excellent opportunities in the marketing of financial services on line," Mr. Shelton said.
Banks that now pare complex graphics from their Web sites to shorten the download time will be liberated from those constraints, he said.
With the new machines, "your Web site becomes, in essence, a television station," Mr. Shelton said.
But Gary Arlen, an electronic banking consultant in Bethesda, Md., said the new systems showed marginal promise as banking channels.
"Our studies show that consumers don't want to do banking on a big- screen TV," he said.
By magnifying sensitive financial data on a large screen, he noted, the devices make it easy for children and others in the room to see it.
Consumers may also resist the concept of managing their life's savings through what has often been called the "boob tube."
"'There are a lot of people who say, 'I don't trust my financial affairs to a device that my kids play video games on,'" Mr. Arlen said.