Microsoft Considers Interactive TV Box Service

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft looks to be working on an interactive television product, likely in the form of a set-top box. That would put it in direct competition with rivals Apple and Google.

Speculation about the move has been spurred by the fact that a Microsoft executive's company bio has been revised. Tom Gibbons, who'd previously worked in Microsoft's general hardware and mobile devices divisions, is now listed as the company's "corporate vice president of TV & Service Business". Given his background, it does seem logical that he'd be working on physical devices in the new role.

According to the bio, Gibbons will be "responsible for driving subscriptions, usage and global partnerships for the TV & Service business." (Source:

TV Boxes Could Run "Windows Lite"

The appointment adds weight to previous reports that the company is working on devices that would run Windows Embedded, a slimmed-down version of Windows that's best known for use in devices such as enhanced ATMs and the multimedia displays on the back of airline seats.

The user interface would be based on the Media Center system that is built into the full versions of Windows and is currently designed for PCs that are used primarily to display content on televisions.

Windows TV Development Likely Ongoing

The San Francisco Chronicle notes that it was rumored the first boxes would be unveiled at this January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but that didn't happen.

That suggests Microsoft is still trying to find a hardware partner to license the software, or alternatively to partner with manufacturers to build the system directly into TV sets. But Gibbons' appointment will certainly increase speculation that Microsoft may decide to go it alone and build boxes itself, a move that's not traditionally the Microsoft way but certainly proved successful with the Xbox 360 video game console. (Source:

While there are multiple systems available combining Internet with television (many of them offered by cable TV carriers), the most direct comparisons will be with Apple and Google.

Apple TV is primarily aimed at allowing users to rent shows and movies through both Apple and Netflix. Google TV, meanwhile, aims to bring the search experience to the TV set, making it easy to find content available on broadcast TV and online video services.

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