La-Z-Boy recliner invites you to surf in comfort

So you need to check your e-mail, but you’re too lazy to move from your comfy recliner. Don’t get up – just punch that armrest.

La-Z-Boy Inc.’s latest product, the Microsoft Corp. WebTV Plus Recliner, lets you surf the Internet via your television from the comfort of your new favorite chair, says Kevin Wixted, director of marketing. The chair comes stocked with a host of high-tech toys, including a wireless keyboard that operates the included WebTV Plus receiver.

“It’s the perfect combination of high comfort and high technology,” he says.

Dubbed the Explorer, the chair is available now and ships in two flavors: fabric for US$1049 and leather for $1299, Wixted says. Despite first impressions, the company isn’t targeting techies with its chair, he says.

Surfing for Loafers

“It’s geared more toward someone who doesn’t want a PC,” Wixted says. The typical Explorer customer wants access to the Internet, but would rather spend the money on a comfortable chair that also lets them go online through their television.

WebTV Plus also lets you send and receive e-mail and access special interactive television broadcasts, all in pop-up windows so that you can keep watching your favorite broadcast TV shows at the same time.

The Explorer should also appeal to parents who are tired of fighting their kids for use of the family’s shared PC, he says. “This lets Mom and Dad get on the Internet.” With a separate phone line, of course.

High-Tech Armrests

The Explorer has a foldout tray in the left armrest that holds the removable battery-operated keyboard. Install the WebTV Plus receiver on your television, plug it into a phone line, and you’re ready to surf, Wixted says. The price of the chair includes the first two months of WebTV Plus service; after that chair-surfers pay the standard rate ($24.95 for the full service or $14.95 with your own Internet service provider).

WebTV Plus capabilities may be the Explorer’s main draw, but the chair has other high-tech goodies that should appeal to more technical-minded users as well, Wixted says.

Remove the wireless WebTV Plus keyboard, and the tray is perfect for holding a notebook computer, he says. And the chair’s left arm also houses a 120-volt fused electrical outlet with surge protection to power that notebook. It has a high-speed digital subscriber line port and a regular analog phone-line port. Over on the right side, you find more traditional creature comforts: a drink holder and storage space for your remote control.

Latest Sit-Down Revolution

An Internet-savvy chair may sound strange to the uninitiated, but Wixted says La-Z-Boy has found much success with its other specialized chairs. For example, it offers chairs with up to ten custom massage motors, chairs with phones, and even chairs with speakers. And don’t forget the top-of-the-line sports-potato chair that includes massage motors and a built-in refrigerator (available in your team’s colors).

So what happens when one of these high-tech chairs stops working? No, you don’t reboot – you call tech. support. Sony takes care of issues with the WebTV Plus hardware, and a local La-Z-Boy dealer will handle any technical problems with the chair’s other hardware, he says.