Microsoft is ending MSN TV (formerly called WebTV) service on Sept. 30, marking an end to one of Microsoft’s many attempts to become a major presence in TV and home entertainment.
Microsoft purchased WebTV networks in 1997 for $425 million — at that time its largest acquisition ever. WebTV was a Palo Alto-based company that provided technology that enabled people to use their TVs to browse the Internet. For a lower price than a typical PC, WebTV allowed users to surf the Web and handle emails via their TV and a wireless keyboard.
Microsoft renamed it MSN TV and, in 2004, came out with MSN TV 2 — a set-top box and service that let users surf the Web, handle their emails, and shift their music, digital photos and videos from a PC to a TV. But its capabilities were limited compared to PCs, whose price had dropped drastically by then.
The goal of WebTV in the mid-1990s, Microsoft said in an FAQ about the service closure, was to bring people online and to give those already online a way of comfortably accessing the Internet.
But “since then, the web has continued to evolve at a breathtaking pace, and there are many new ways to access the Internet,” Microsoft said in explaining why it’s shutting down the service. “We are working with our customers to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible.”
Before the service ends, users will have to save any photos they want to keep. Users will be able to keep their MSN TV 2 email address and will be able to access their emails through Outlook.com
In recent years, Microsoft’s efforts to become a central hub of living room entertainment has focused on the Xbox. It’s been promoting Xbox and the Xbox Live service as not just a gaming console but also a hub for TV, movies, music, sports and news.