The Wii is not just a gaming system. It can display still images, play video, and allow users to browse the Internet on their TV, too. The last feature is offered by the Wii Internet.
Wii Internet is, at bottom, two essential components: an Opera 9 browser (similar to Firefox or Internet Explorer, for those not familiar with it) and a wireless Internet connection. Using that software/hardware combination, users can access any website just as they would with a PC or Mac, or web-TV console.
But, there are big differences that make the Wii Internet experience even richer.
The Wii system supports several different methods for navigating the web. Users can take advantage of the QWERTY-style image on the TV and 'type' or select using the Wiimote as a point-and-click device. Or, with a few 'mouse' clicks on the Wii Remote they can use instead a smaller cell-phone style keypad that offers smart type-ahead. Alternatively, anyone who wants to can plug in a real PC-style USB-capable keyboard, using one of the two USB ports offered by the Wii console.
The Wii Remote and Internet Channel software provide lots of other convenient features, such as Search, Zoom, or Scroll. Text Wrap ensures that web page content never gets hidden. Users can easily play YouTube videos, watch movies and TV shows online, shop at Amazon, access online email, and on and on. In short, anything you do with your computer/browser you can do with Wii Internet.
Consistent with the Wii design thrust, Wii Internet goes beyond the single user experience. Sharing URLs is easy, just send your Favorites from within the Page Information display. They can be shared using the Wii Friends feature or sent to his or her email account.
There is a nominal, one-time charge of 500 Wii points (equivalent to $5) to download the Wii Internet via Wii Shop, but there are no monthly usage or connectivity charges. There is no inherent restriction on what website users can visit, but parents can control which sites are accessible by the easy-to-configure Parental Controls.
The software is stored on the internal flash, and so it uses a small portion of the 512MB of the Wii by default. But it can be moved to an SD card, freeing up internal storage space. The Opera software at the heart of Wii Internet supports the abilities of its larger cousin. Once connected, web pages display on your TV with large fonts and images, making navigation ultra-easy for the elderly.
The Wi-Fi support that provides the connection can come from the same wireless network your home computer uses. Or, it can come from any of the thousands of 'hot spots' found at an Internet cafe, the airport, and more. Since the Wii is so small and lightweight those are actually practical options.
The Wii system makes it easy to access the Internet and eliminates any need to connect your PC or Mac to the TV to take advantage of the larger screen. Very cool.