Microsoft is hoping its Web-based TV service will attract ageing users to surf the Internet, read e-mail and view digital photos – all without a computer. In what initially seems like a shot in the foot, Microsoft’s research indicates that the untapped market potential for older users is in excess of 40 million – a sizable figure even for the king of software.
As well as the older generation, Microsoft is also targeting first-time Web users, particularly in developing economies where the Internet is out of many people’s reach because of the cost of a PC. The major benefit of being able to view photos and read e-mail on your TV is that most people already own a TV, thus eliminating the prohibitive cost of a PC, as well as the hassle of installing and learning how to use it. Sitting in front of a TV is also usually a heck of a lot more comfortable than a computer.
“Our average user is 57 years old,” said Andy Sheldon, senior director of product marketing for MSN TV. “These people are getting to the age where they don’t want to deal with complicated ways of connecting to the Web.”
The service comes via a MSN TV 2 unit set-top box, bringing e-mail and the Internet to the TV. It includes a wireless keyboard and remote control and costs $199, in addition to a subscription fee, which costs around $22 per month. MSN TV 2 also includes a 56Kbit/s phone modem, as well as an Ethernet jack for connecting to an existing network or broadband connection. Of course, there’s also e-mail and instant messaging accounts and access to 200 radio stations and video clips. Viewers can also browse Web pages or even digital photos stored on memory cards.
MSN TV 2 is probably ideal for those who have yet to take their first step onto the Internet, but anyone interested in a home networking device can get more for their money