Convergence, Yet Again

MSN-TV hopes broadband means broad market

Microsoft is once again trying to converge the TV and PC. The broadband
and home-network-enabled version of its MSN TV Internet receiver hits the
streets next month. Similar but less feature-rich devices from Microsoft and
AOL failed miserably in the late '90s, but Microsoft believes market conditions
are ideal for a relaunch.

"It's as much designed for the media enthusiast as for someone who wants
to access the Internet and e-mail on their TV," says Andy Sheldon, product
manager for applications and services, Microsoft TV Group. The $199 device will
be sold by Best Buy, Circuit City and other retailers. It will also have a
$9.95 monthly fee for delivery of broadband content. A dial-up service will
cost $21.95 per month.

The MSN TV set-top will enable users to view PC content on their TV
screens via wireless or wired connection. Users will also be able to surf the
Net and e-mail on the TV.

"It's the MSN properties that will set us apart," he says. Hundreds of
exclusive clips from MSNBC or Discovery will be available for viewing, and
users will have a chance to build their own on-demand newscast on the PC and
then play it back on the TV.

While the MSN content is a good starting point, the addition of Windows
Media 10 and its digital rights-management system in early 2005 promises
customers far more flexibility in downloading digital content. Sheldon says
WM10 will allow users to download content from Web sites like Movielink or
CinemaNow and play them back on the TV. "They'll be able to watch that content
where they want," he says.

Adi Kishore, media and entertainment strategies analyst with the Yankee
Group, says the challenge facing MSN TV is to provide product that is better
than devices from companies like TiVo, Akimbo or traditional PC-based