With a big push on for "connected TVs" — those that can hitch you up to the Internet via your home TV for streaming movies, TV shows, music and photos — Microsoft is likely to jump into that arena with its own product to be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas.
Google and Apple already have a footprint in this effort, and hungry TV makers are pushing for it, too (with 3-D TVs, the failed wunderkind of last year's CES, not yet ready for prime time with consumers).
Microsoft plans to use a "stripped-down version of Windows tailored for set-top boxes and connected TVs," reports Brier Dudley of The Seattle Times. "The software is a version of its embedded device software, overlaid with the Windows Media Center interface, with media streaming and remote-control capabilities." (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
Microsoft's connected TV boxes are expected to go for around $200 and be available later this year, according to the report, and "pose a serious challenge to the new Apple and Google TV devices, largely because the Windows boxes have a polished and familiar TV-program guide that makes it easy to blend and navigate both online and broadcast content."
Apple TV, which costs $99, and stuttered along for several years, has done much better since a revamp last fall. Recently introduced Google TV, however, is still finding its way. Google TV, so far only available through Logitech's $300 Revue and Sony's $400 Sony Internet TV Blu-ray player, has stumbled because of complexity, and Google has reportedly asked other TV makers to hold off on launching Google TV until the operating system is tweaked.
Whether Microsoft can do better than either Apple or Google remains to be seen. Just last week, Apple said it expects sales of Apple TV to top 1 million any day. It's an impressive number, considering it sold 250,000 boxes in the first six weeks after release, and, according to AppleInsider, sales estimates of the previous generation model were believed to be less than 1 million per year.