Microsoft Working on Apple TV Competitor

While 2010 was a failure for Microsoft on the tablet front, the Redmond-based company fared well when it comes to smartphones and desktop PCs. Windows Phone 7 launched successfully, the app marketplace already offers more than 5,000 apps, and Windows 7 for PC enjoyed impressive sales. 2011 will likely be a pivotal year for Microsoft, as the software giant plans to announce a slew of new tablets this week at CES, and is now rumored to be working on its own “Microsoft TV.” According to Brier Dudley of the Seattle Times, “Microsoft’s going to make a splash in this market with a stripped-down version of Windows tailored for set-top boxes and connected TVs. […] The software is a version of its embedded device software, overlaid with the Windows Media Center interface, with media streaming and remote-control capabilities.” New Windows-based set top boxes will reportedly be released later this year, and should cost less than $200. Interestingly enough, new Microsoft-branded set-top-boxes could potentially put the software giant in a somewhat difficult position: Microsoft’s Mediaroom system already powers most IP-based TV services deployed in the U.S., such as at&t’s U-verse, and the launch of a separate set-top-box would likely be seen as a threat by Microsoft’s IPTV customers. Possibly, the new service may also be sold as an add-on to existing, non-Microsoft set-top-boxes, where both IPTV providers and Microsoft would offer a common media store. Meanwhile, Google’s own set-top-boxes will unlikely be the star of the show at CES this year, as “Google has asked the TV makers to delay their introductions, […] so it can refine the software, which has received a lukewarm reception, [which] caught some of the manufacturers off guard.” Google is allegedly revamping the software to better compete with Apple. As for the Apple TV, the device fared well last year, as Apple sold 1 million units during the three months following its launch. While the milestone is impressive, the number of Apple TVs sold so far is still fairly low when compared to other iOS-powered devices. The launch of an Apple TV App Store later this year could prove to be a major game changer though, as many potential buyers are still waiting for dedicated apps to be available to make the move.