There's one less console in the living room now that Microsoft has officially announced the demise of MSN TV. The device started life as WebTV and was a hardware package that turned user's televisions into simple Web surfing and email systems while also offering up online entertainment, and even though it will soon be gone, Apple doesn't have much to celebrate.
MSN TV's death doesn't give Apple much to celebrate
MSN TV will be put to rest at the end of September, and the big surprise here is that the service hadn't already shut down. Microsoft has been focusing instead on content through its Xbox gaming platform, and the team working on MSN TV had moved on to handle other projects like Mediaroom.
With MSN TV out of the way, Apple has a little less competition in the home entertainment market, but that probably doesn't matter. MSN TV had a small following and Microsoft has been pushing Xbox as an all-in-one home entertainment system with a nice level of success.
What MSN TV's demise shows us isn't that Apple TV has a little less competition, but that making a go of it in the Interent-based entertainment console market is hard. Microsoft tried to buy its way into the market with MSN TV before moving on to push Xbox, and Apple has been slowly -- very slowly -- moving forward with Apple TV. Currently, Apple offers content through the iTunes Store, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and a handfull of other sources, many of which require a cable TV subscription to view.
Apple hasn't yet been able to turn Apple TV into an option where mainstream TV watchers can drop their cable or satellite connection and, even with the Xbox's success, Microsoft is struggling with the same problem, too. Microsoft has another advantage over Apple TV, too: Console gaming. Apple TV doesn't offer built-in video game support, although rumors have hinted that's coming soon.
Even still, Xbox has a big lead on Apple TV with years of blockbuster games and content deals that Apple hasn't yet been able swing. Slow and methodical may pay off for Apple in the long run, but for now Xbox continues to outpace Apple TV.
Apple still calls its Apple TV home entertainment console a hobby, although CEO Tim Cook has said that's a market where his company has a strong interest. Apple seems dedicated to the Apple TV project, so it's a safe bet some of that strong interest is geared towards their little black entertainment box.
MSN TV, however, hasn't fared so well and the salt in its fatal wound is that almost no one will notice. The Xboxes, Apple TVs and Rokus will continue to move forward without noticing a change in the marketplace, and Apple has no doubt been watching closely to see what Microsoft did right -- and wrong -- and that has more value to Apple than the end of MSN TV.