The forerunner of connected television, MSN TV will be shutting down operations as of September 30th.
MSN TV came from the brain child of Steve Perlman, who created Web TV. WebTV was launched on September 18, 1996 with a few different set top boxes and a $19.95/month fee for unlimited web and email right off of your television.
It was a hit and their success got the attention of Microsoft who purchased Web TV in 1997 for $425 million.
The service worked through a set top box which connected to a phone line. Using the hot buttons on the keyboard, people were able to access email, favorite websites, and news. Later features included picture in picture, the ability to capture images from the TV and even schedule recordings a la TiVo.
With the main feature being dial-up access the introduction of Broadband, MSN TV lost its fire, and subscriber membership went down. Some of the engineers used what they learned from this and moved to bigger and better products, namely the Xbox.
This product showed that there was a need to be connected and would spur on devices like Boxee, Roku, and Apple TV.
Microsoft is feeling that it is time to put the old house to pasture:
WebTV (later called MSN TV) started in 1996 with the goal to bring new people ‘online’ and to give those already online an easy, hassle-free means of accessing the internet from the comfort of their homes. Later, MSN TV 2 was released with vastly greater power and features. Since then, the web has continued to evolve at a breathtaking pace, and there are many new ways to access the internet. Accordingly, we have made the difficult decision to end the MSN TV service on September 30th, 2013. We are working with our customers to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible.
My older family members used MSN TV because they didn’t want/need a computer but they wanted a way to connect to us. It was a great concept and thinking back on what it actually did in its time just shows how good technology can be, and will get to be in the future.