Microsoft launches set-top box

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This week, Microsoft is finally to start shipping its new set-top box, the MSN TV2 and the device contains some interesting new features.

The relatively soft low-profile launch of MSN TV2 belies how much is actually riding on the launch. Microsoft has known for some time that computing is leaving the desktop and entering the living room. Having won the battle to have its operating system on almost every desktop, the Seattle software giant must fight a new war for control of the digital TV.

The new device comprises video playback and photo-viewing programmes plus a special version of its Web browser Internet Explorer 6 designed to allow internet surfing via the digital TV. The operating system is the scaled down version of Windows, Windows CE. The device's specification, with its Celeron processor, would be unimpressive in a PC but is cutting-edge in the set-top box market.

The box sells for $199 and can be linked to a PC stored in another room to play music or movies stored on that device's hard drive. In mid-November, Microsoft plans to add support for faster 802.11g wireless networking. The product has no hard drive but enough flash memory to store some data, including enough storage space for around 100 compressed photos that can be used as part of a slide show.

The new box is being made by Thomson and sold under the RCA brand and should start to appear on retailers' shelves as early as next week. The industry will be watching closely in the run-up to Christmas to see if Microsoft can port its operating system into the digital TV market while leaving legacy problems from the desktop such as virus attacks behind. TV viewers would be likely to have less patience in downloading software patches than PC buffs and problems of this nature could spell disaster for Microsoft in this new market.

Lovelacemedia  |  28.09.2004

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