Adding to its long list of failed Internet ventures, Microsoft is shutting down its MSN TV Internet service on September 30, 2013.
Those with long memories will remember that MSN TV had its origins in the Web TV venture founded by Steve Perlman et al.
Founded in 1995, Web TV allowed the not-so-web savvy and others to access the Internet on their TV sets through a wireless keyboard, set-top box and a remote control.
Microsoft acquired Web TV in April 1997 for $425 million but the business really never took off as anticipated.
Consumers preferred to use their PCs and notebook computers for Internet access.
Although Web TV had several hundred thousand subscribers in the early days, the numbers dwindled in the post-2000 period.
In 2001, Microsoft rebranded the Web TV business as MSN TV, an exercise in futility.
The current version is called MSN TV2.
In a FAQ addressed to MSN TV subscribers (who can’t have been many), Microsoft wrote:
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.
Microsoft has had little success in its TV business.
Apart from Web TV, Microsoft spent considerable time and money on alliances with cable companies in the U.S. and Europe.
But none of the alliances made much headway in getting Microsoft’s software widely accepted on cable companies headend systems.
Microsoft’s Many Internet Failures
The account books at Microsoft are littered with huge losses on the company’s many Internet failures.
Here are a few of Microsoft’s notable Internet flops:
* Bing (Microsoft’s poor search engine is undoubtedly the company’s biggest Internet failure)
* MSN Search
* Live Search
* Soapbox – a YouTube rival
* MSN Internet access
* Internet Explorer – crappiest browser with tons of security holes
* CarPoint car buying service
* MSFDC/Transpoint bill presentment and payment service
* LinkExchange Banner Network
* HomeAdvisor home buying service
* Passport Express Purchase online shopping service
* Electronic Wallet
* Slate online magazine
* Web TV/MSN TV
* E-Stamp (minority investment in September 1997)
* Relay One (joint venture with UK Post)
* Firefly Networks (acquisition in April 1998)
* Wireless Knowledge (joint venture with Qualcomm in November 1998)
* SaveSmart web ad technology (minority investment in February 1998)
* eFusion (minority investment in August 1997)