Safaricom is rolling out a plug an play keyboard marketed under the Safaricom Webbox banner. The service which seems to have been adopted from Vodafone UK’s Webbox is set to retail in Kenya at Ksh 4,999 ($50) and turns every TV into a web box literally.

The keyboard which is a modem running on Android 2.1 (Eclair) will  enable the user access the following services;

  • Browsing the Internet
  • M-Pesa Services
  • Listening to FM Radio
  • Playing Games
  • Read and Send Emails
  • Play Music and Videos Saved in Memory Card
  • Send SMS
  • Viewing Photos
  • Calender, Calculator and Notebook for Personal Information

The keyboard was developed by Vodafone and has already been launched in Ghana, India and South Africa among other countries.  South Africa was actually the first country to get the device in February with India and Ghana following later.

The Safaricom Webbox is a data device which runs on Android 2.1. It has a built-in hardware and antenna that supports up to 2.5G and EDGE networks. The device connects to your TV through the standard RCA cables offering every user an internet experience. The only difference with your usual Android device is that it runs on an Android OS but you will not be able to access the Android Market.

You will not need any CD to install the device to your TV as it is plug-n-play. To get the free 200MB Safaricom offers when you purchase the system, you will need to send the IMEI of your Keyboard to 440. Safaricom recommend the 500MB bundle which costs Ksh 499 for the service. The service works with any TV though the Black and white TVs will give you poor experience.

The Webbox is locked to Safaricom so you will not be able to use any other SIM card apart from those from Safaricom on it. To prevent misuse, the Webbox has a password control feature.

The biggest draw back to this system is only the EDGE network it runs on. Otherwise this is a great device which will serve a great constituency of users who cannot afford a proper Computer for internet access. With almost 10 Million Kenyan homes having access to TV, Safaricom Webbox has a big potential to increase internet penetration.

Before Safaricom avails a demo video online, find this demo from Vodafone Webbox by Patrick Chomet, Vodafone’s Group Director of Terminals:

For more information about Safaricom Webbox, check here http://safaricom.co.ke/index.php?id=1455