Microsoft has decided to kill off one of those things it made which were ahead of its time. Redmond’s Steve Perlman came up with WebTV in the 1990s long before TVs were smart. The big idea was to marry the computer and television.
Now Microsoft is seeing the technology widely used but has decided to pull the product it bought for $425 million in 1997. Now called MSN TV, Microsoft has announced that it will cease operations in September of 2013.
At the time it was considered huge. Businessweek said in 1996 that "I think we may now have the product that could turn the World Wide Web into a mass-entertainment medium." The WebTV kit was made up of a box, keyboard, and remote. It browsed the web and checked email without requiring a lot of extra and expensive hardware.
Redmond made a bit of cash out of it. Mostly from a monthly subscription service it offered. It was killed off by AOL TV and proper smart TVs. The division was broken up, the product was renamed to MSN TV, and many of its members went to the Xbox team or to work on Mediaroom. Perlman eventually left, too, and later founded OnLive, a company with obvious ties to the WebTV idea.