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Microsoft to Shut Down MSN TV Service

Software giant's service and set-top were based on WebTV startup it acquired in 1997

Microsoft will pull the plug on MSN TV, the service based on the early Internet-device startup WebTV it bought 16 years ago, effective Sept. 30.

It will surely surprise some that the Son of WebTV was still extant. In recent years, the company has focused on the Xbox videogame console as its connected-TV platform for delivering entertainment to the living room. Meanwhile, the Redmond giant had stopped actively marketing the MSN TV device and service, which ossified into an artifact from an earlier era.

In the mid-1990’s, WebTV created a device to provide web and email via dial-up modem to people who didn’t have a personal computer. Microsoft bought the startup in a deal worth $425 million before changing the name of the product to MSN TV. In 2004, the company launched MSN TV 2, which had a faster processor and enhanced features including broadband connectivity, but the service — and similar “Web-on-TV” concepts — never achieved significant traction.

In an FAQ explaining the shutdown, Microsoft said that “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.”

MSN TV users will be able to continue to access their email through Microsoft’s Outlook.com website and can transfer photos to the company’s SkyDrive service.

Customers are free to keep the MSN TV set-top (as an objet d’art… or doorstop). For those who wish to discard it, Microsoft recommends using a local electronics recycler.

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