I Want My MSN TV?

Score another victory for couch spuds everywhere. Yesterday Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) rolled out a new version of its MSN TV service aimed at bringing stored computer files, the Internet, and email to the boob tube.

Couch surfing isn't new. Indeed, Mr. Softy was one of the first to get comfy with Internet access by purchasing Web TV back in 1999 for nearly $500 million. The service was billed as a way for the unsophisticated to get easy access to the Web and email. But Web TV, renamed MSN TV in 2001, never really caught on as much as Microsoft would have liked.

With MSN TV 2, Mr. Softy hopes to change that. A $200 package that includes a wireless keyboard and remote control, MSN TV 2 requires a PC and an Internet connection and includes a service fee of $9.95 to $21.95 per month. It is expected to be widely available by the middle of this month.

The truth is, there isn't much that's new here. Although Microsoft hypes MSN TV's ability to bring stored video and music files from a PC to a TV, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) has enabled Mac users to do this for some time. No, it isn't necessarily easy, but it can be done. And Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO  ) already allows its subscribers to connect their computers to play stored digital photos and music over the tube. Its deal with Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) could also up the ante in video on demand.

That leaves email and Internet surfing as the most innovative features of MSN TV 2 -- not unlike the old Web TV. Maybe that's why I don't expect Microsoft's lead to last much longer. Nearly everyone in the computer and consumer electronics business has some vision for a "digital home" that includes set-top boxes, which make TV more interactive, including old Windows pal Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) .

And who's to say Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) won't revive AOL TV? Would it be any less appealing than the similarly named MSN TV? What about Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) TV? Of course, these offerings don't exist yet, and neither firm can blend the TV and computer expertise as can Microsoft, but so many interested parties are out there that a deal has to be just around the corner.

It wouldn't be right to simply dismiss Microsoft's latest outreach to the sedentary set just because previous forays have fallen flat. But do I want my MSN TV? Nah, I'll stick with my Mac for now.

For more TV-related Foolishness, read:

  • The Internet and TV are already a powerful one-two punch, says fellow Fool Rick Munarriz.
  • NBC TV isn't immune to hype-dealing and announced Jay Leno would retire from The Tonight Show in 2009.
  • Join couchmates Rick Munarriz, Dayana Yochim, and me as we review each week's business lessons on The Apprentice.

TiVo hasbeen featured in theMotley Fool Stock Advisor, a newsletter that helps individual investors find market-beating stocks. Sign up for six months, risk-free.

What will happen to TV in 10 years? Will it be all video on demand? Will we still have commercials? Share your views with other Fools on the Television Banter discussion board.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers thinks PCs are called personal computers for a reason; he just doesn't understand the idea of family surfing. Tim owns no shares of any company mentioned, and you can view his Fool profile here.


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