In the mid 1990’s, Microsoft launched an interactive TV service called WebTV. WebTV was one of the first set-top box devices to have Internet accessible through TV sets. WebTV was renamed to MSN TV in 2001. Microsoft acquired WebTV from Steve Perlman in 1997 for $425 million. MSN TV will be shutting down on September 30th, according to CNET.
WebTV offered a way to check e-mail and websites on the TV using wireless keyboards. Unfortunately, the device did not take off like the Apple TV did. When Microsoft rebranded the service in 2001, they added integration with MSN Messenger and MSN Hotmail. Microsoft even tried to offer the interactive service for free with the MSN online service, but then the device ended up being sidetracked due to the success of the Xbox game console.
“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,” said Microsoft in a statement about the shutdown.