Microsoft ready to take on Apple, Google with TV set top box

Reports indicate that Microsoft is prepared to show off a connected television solution of its own, and will demo a TV set top box this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The device will be similar to those already offered by competitors Apple and Google.

The Seattle Times reports that the device will come in at a price point below $200, and is expected to go on sale later in the year. In the simplest terms, it is an effort by Microsoft to bring its Windows Media Center concept to the masses.

It could be argued that the Redmond company was one of the first major companies to invest in the idea of a "connected TV" when it launched the Media Center platform back in 2002. However at the time, digital content had only begun to catch on, and the platform did not have broad-based appeal.

These days, it's certainly a different story. According to research firm DisplaySearch, the market for connected televisions is expected to triple to more than 124 million units by 2014.

Microsoft's entrant into the space will be built on Windows Embedded, with a UI similar to its Media Center platform. The company's plans are nothing new -- the devices made an appearance when Microsoft announced its plans for embedded software last year, and during an Intel conference last September.

The fact that the devices appeared at the chipmaker's gathering may give a strong indication that the devices themselves may use Intel chips.

If the Times reporting is true, it would mean a quicker timetable for Microsoft's connected TV plans than had earlier been reported. Reuters said in November that the company had been in talks to turn the Xbox 360 into a cable TV set top box for a monthly fee, although it was said at the time any service was a year away from becoming a reality.

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