Microsoft to Challenge Cable TV with MS TV Service

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft is reportedly planning to become a "virtual cable TV operator" through a broadband service. It's seen by many as an attempt to challenge Google TV.

The plan, which wouldn't take effect for at least a year, would be to team up with cable TV networks towards offering channels directly to users via the Xbox 360 games console, with the content delivered through a broadband connection.

The service would work along the same lines as traditional cable TV, with a basic tier-based package and then a premium fee for some individual channels. There will also be interactive, options such as the ability to chat with online friends (either via text or through a headset) while watching a show. There's no firm pricing details yet, though chances are it would undercut existing cable TV options. (Source:

Cable Channels Losing Business

If Microsoft's logic is correct, cable TV channels would welcome such a move because it may help recover revenues that are being lost as consumers cut down on cable spending. That's partly due to general economic worries but also because some users are switching to online streaming services like Netflix.

Net Neutrality An Issue Again

If the Microsoft service were to take off, it would contribute further controversy to the issue of net neutrality. With many Xbox 360 users getting their broadband service from a cable provider, there would certainly be a temptation for the cable firms to give a lower priority to Microsoft's TV service if it proved viable to do so.

Such a practice would breach the principle of treating all Internet equally, though how that principle is enforced in either laws or regulations is a matter currently being debated.

A Microsoft TV service would mean yet another area where it is competing with Google, which has its own TV system. In that case, it's a technology rather than a service: Google TV is an Android-based system for use in set-top boxes that brings together an interactive search tool for TV listings, online videos such as YouTube, etc.

To date, only a few boxes are available running the system, and not many major channels have come on board. (Source:

Apple also has a product of this kind, known as Apple TV, but this is a device rather than a service. It's a wireless receiver that plugs into a television and can play video content from an iTunes library on a nearby computer.

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