Microsoft may launch Windows-based set-top box

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It seems Microsoft is all set to join back the interactive TV game (despite its not-so-successful history with the technology) being led by Apple, Google and others.

According to reports, the company is going to unveil an operating system for connected TVs and set-top boxes at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“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,” reported Seattle Times.

The boxes are expected to cost around $200 and go on sale later this year. They’ll pose a serious challenge to the new Apple and Google TV devices, largely because the Windows boxes have a polished and familiar TV-programme guide that makes it easy to blend and navigate both online and broadcast content, says the news report.

Microsoft has long held ambitions to be a major player in the TV business and has previously invested in MSNBC and interactive television initiatives including Web TV and MSN TV set-top box software. Its latest plans include offering interactive features to engage viewers through social media, interactive advertising and “gesture” technology that lets viewers change channels and fast forward through shows by waving their arms or speaking instructions, say people who have seen early demonstrations.

Meanwhile, Google plans to rework the software for Google TV before more manufacturers bring devices to market with that programming installed, reported US media recently. Companies like Toshiba, LG and Sharp were prepared to present the first devices with the Google TV option at the upcoming CES show. However, Google has now asked them to hold off while it reworks the programme, reported the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Google TV is designed to operate on special televisions or set-top boxes. Japanese company Sony and Swiss computer peripherals manufacturer Logitech are already using the technology.

The goal of Google TV is to meld television and the Internet. Viewers would be able to access Google’s Chrome browser directly from their television. Hundreds of TV channels would similarly be accessible and searchable on TVs and online.

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This post was submitted by Mudit Agrawal.

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