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Microsoft Businesses

Microsoft Says Goodbye To WebTV/MSN TV 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the so-long dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft has just notified both subscribers of MSN TV that the service would be ending at the end of September (FAQ for subscribers here). The service, which delivered Internet access to a TV screen via a set top box, was the evolution of WebTV Networks launched by Steve Perlman and others during the initial Web boom in the mid '90s. Microsoft bought the company for $503 million in 1997, when Bill Gates was still CEO."
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Microsoft Says Goodbye To WebTV/MSN TV

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  • I owned MSN TV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by A Huge Loud Fart (2975425) on Sunday July 07, 2013 @10:33AM (#44209325)
    I owned MSN TV and it was one of the best services of all time. So long, you will be missed...
    • by cyrano.mac (916276) on Sunday July 07, 2013 @11:00AM (#44209491)
      "Microsoft has just notified both subscribers of MSN TV..." So who's the other one?
  • by lord_rob the only on (859100) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (3003avihs)> on Sunday July 07, 2013 @10:44AM (#44209399)

    The company that develops your product might decide to drop its support and you're screwed.

    • Roku (Score:5, Insightful)

      by transporter_ii (986545) on Sunday July 07, 2013 @12:02PM (#44209919) Homepage

      Assume Amazon, Netflix, etc., etc., go out of business, I can still use Plex or Playon to stream movies off my own LAN.

      The really bad thing that would happen is the death of DVDs. DVDs were the single greatest thing to ever happen to the "public domain," copyright be damned.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Yeah, Having a DVD or a CD in the case of music is the best thing for the public domain. There's so many works out there that were lost, or that we just don't have a good copy of. CDs and DVDs (after we broke the encryption) allow us to keep pristine copies of the original material. Many of the records that my parents had in their young adult years are unplayable, or don't sound as good as they originally did. People complain about the sounds quality of mp3s but they sound a lot better than a record that
        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          People always want to watch, read, or listen to new stuff. Otherwise the arts would have died off since we already have centuries of public domain works. How come kids aren't content to just watch Shakespeare over and over, or have Bach raves?

      • Re:Roku (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Sunday July 07, 2013 @01:29PM (#44210485)

        Assume Amazon, Netflix, etc., etc., go out of business, I can still use Plex or Playon to stream movies off my own LAN.

        The really bad thing that would happen is the death of DVDs. DVDs were the single greatest thing to ever happen to the "public domain," copyright be damned.

        And now you know why the media companies want the DVD to die. As long as you can play it whenever you want, they can't monetize it.

    • by Alioth (221270)

      Well, no. If they tie your product rigidly to some server of theirs, yes it might, but really that's a design flaw. A device which you can put in and use settings other than just company sanctioned ones will work years after the original company has long since disappeared.

      • *CAN* work, everything is designed to break after a given period of time nowadays and nothing is repaired anymore. Ever heard of planned obsolescence?
        Of course it won't change anything if you're no more covered by your warranty, but what if you are still covered?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Of course, WebTV is direct competition to XBox One media center, they really don't want to support the old one anymore.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Lol I ported Linux to the MSNTV.

      -cmw

    • By that reasoning, maybe WebTV was the reason why they didn't give the Xbox a web browser until last year... something the Sega Dreamcast had out of the box, back in 1999.

      • I suspect this may be to avoid concerning parents. Give a device a web browser and an internet connection, and there will be porn. Lots of minors have xbox consoles in their bedrooms. Put the two together and in about four months you'd start seeing the tabloids running with 'Microsoft turned my son into a porn addict' and the self-appointed guardians of family values would be claiming Microsoft is enabling pedophiles somehow.

  • There were only 2 subscribers. Good that it stops, now.
  • Then again... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus@gma i l . com> on Sunday July 07, 2013 @11:13AM (#44209573) Homepage Journal
    ...the umpteenth set-top box business model that collapses. Siemens is trying, at this moment, in Central Europe. Why do companies try this business model so often, where it has shown only one consistency, namely that of failure everywhere ?
    • Re:Then again... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao@hot[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday July 07, 2013 @12:22PM (#44210043) Homepage

      The idea behind set-top boxes is reasonable: a simple cheap device for people who have little use for a full-blown PC. But they used to be so extremely limited in matters of processing power, storage, customizability... to the point that they were not good enough even for those people. Now look at any Android mini-PC that you can get off eBay for $50, it's something completely different. I guess we finally got to the point where set-top boxes can be made good enough and cheap enough.

  • Ummm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by garyoa1 (2067072) on Sunday July 07, 2013 @11:16AM (#44209589)

    Last time I looked, the hints were that Xbox1 would do the same thing as MSN TV.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    WebTV was my first introduction to the internet. We were too poor to afford both a new computer and an internet connection. I learned that using only a keyboard in a GUI is unpleasant. I learned that dial-up really is objectively slow. I learned that internet chatrooms are a place for desperate people to reach each other either for sex or for trolling purposes. I learned that internet porn is really something special. I learned that lesson a lot.

    I also learned that spilling a beverage on a keyboard does in

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday July 07, 2013 @12:21PM (#44210035) Homepage

    You'd think they'd offer an upgrade path to Xbox One. But no. That's not the Microsoft way. They didn't migrate PlaysForSure to Zune. They sort of migrated Zune to Windows Phone and Xbox Music. They're not good at gracefully supporting their content buyers as the technology changes.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      You'd think they'd offer an upgrade path to Xbox One. But no. That's not the Microsoft way. They didn't migrate PlaysForSure to Zune. They sort of migrated Zune to Windows Phone and Xbox Music. They're not good at gracefully supporting their content buyers as the technology changes.

      That's because internally, Microsoft makes decisions to keep products from eating profits of other profit lines, instead of what is best for the companies total bottom line. As such, PlaysForSure and Zune were competitors, even internally and the thought of Zune giving a break to the people who made the wrong choice was unthinkable. Let them pay the full price like everybody else. Likewise for Zune to Windows Phone and Xbox Music. When you set up your internal teams to compete against each other that is the

      • ....and that's saying something.

        The inability of MS's teams to work together might have something to do with the atrocious stack ranking method they used for employee evaluation:

        “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on compe
        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

          ....and that's saying something.

          The inability of MS's teams to work together might have something to do with the atrocious stack ranking method they used for employee evaluation:

          “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

          That's from Vanity Faire from last year. I still find it hard to believe. I used to think Balmer hate was just sort of nerd posturing, but after reading that I realized, no, Balmer really is a clueless jack off doing nothing more than reciting the latest MBA buzzwords he learned from the latest business bestseller.

          That is a formula not for long term success but ultimate failure. When you force your team members not to actually function as a team, but ultimately be direct competitors of each other you do not get the best product and you don't get it at the most efficient price point.

          Maybe that's why Microsoft is no longer considered a major player by most people. It wasn't because Bill Gates left, it was because who Bill Gates left in charge.

    • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Sunday July 07, 2013 @01:38PM (#44210539)

      Microsoft still thinks like a monopoly, even in those fields where they don't actually possess one. In the long run, this will be their downfall.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft never understood. WebTV was never a replacement for a PC. It was never for the technically literate. It did work wonderfully for older folk or those who want email contact with family and friends and do not want to think about updates, BSOD, and other computer system turds. The user interface could be explained to older folk quickly, there were few surprises. You did not need a deep mental model of how it worked. Unlike smart phones it had a real keyboard that worked for folks with s

  • I always wanted a MSN TV 2 box and now I'll finally be able to afford one!
  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Sunday July 07, 2013 @01:44PM (#44210591)

    The original idea of WebTV was that it would be a simple web browsing appliance for people who didn't need all the power of a full-fledged computer, and didn't want to learn all the intricacies of Windows. The thing is, we now have other devices that do this even better: tablets and smartphones. And the non-technical crowd has transitioned to these devices en masse. We hear a lot about the so-called "post-PC era", but it isn't because experienced users have stopped using standard PCs. (They haven't, and won't – tablets and smartphones are much too limited to take the place of a real workstation.) Rather, it's because people who never used all the power of a PC in the first place decided to switch to devices that were easier to use, and didn't require antivirus software or weekly security patching. An iPad makes a lousy workstation, but for non-technical users, it's a better web-browsing/email/Facebook device than a Windows PC. And WebTV with its ancient hardware and firmware couldn't keep up.

    • by colfer (619105)

      Monitors were huge & somewhat costly then, so it saved you that expense & space. But you couldn't scroll to the right! It just clipped anything wider than 640px (?) off. And the resolution of course was low-res TV. Not sure it was so protected from exploits either.

    • by JThundley (631154)

      Also don't forget that Flash took over the web and WebTV didn't have a mouse or the hardware to render flash as you mentioned. But nevermind the hardware, there was never a plugin!

  • I said good bye to Microsoft, like some 10 years back.
  • was the service realy that ill used? Just two subscribers?
  • Now how am I supposed to browse Geocities?

  • How is it this half billion dollars is well spent ? Only if the "downside" possibility is worth the money spent. So I wonder how it is that Microsoft and HP and Google and Facebook remain profitable with all of the money they toss around on dead ends. After a while it all looks like good old fashioned money laundering, masquerading as investment....

  • by WeeBit (961530)
    So where do I send the computer illiterates that can't handle a PC?
  • by beaverdownunder (1822050) on Monday July 08, 2013 @02:13AM (#44213977)

    "Microsoft has just notified both subscribers of MSN TV that the service would be ending..."

    Yes, and I imagine the two of them are equally disappointed. (I'm sure someone already made that joke, but I couldn't resist...)

    Seriously though, I was responsible for some of the (frankly torturous) menu music in the earlier WebTV firmware (ooh, .MOD files...) which I was never actually paid for because my cheque got lost in the shuffle when Microsoft bought WebTV Networks. I think I'm happier to be able to say that Microsoft stiffed me though (and more proud of that fact than the music I wrote), rather than if I'd actually been paid. It makes for a better story.

    Surprised the platform has survived this long though...

  • It would be cool of MSFT to at least issue a firmware update that would let users choose their own homepage, and bypass the paid service, which is going away, of course; at least with the MSNTV2, it's a 733MHz Celeron, which should be able to handle rendering of most mobile sites, at least... there are lots of people who will be utterly lost without this service (my brother being one of them). I just bought one of the Google TV units to see if it will be a suitable replacement.

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