What fools the idiots in charge of Microsoft are! When MSN bought WebTV back in the late 90’s, I sensed, “Oh joy, MSN bought WebTV only to squelch it.” I was right, and it seems the House that Bill Built is not as invincible as believed. Fast forward to today. The last MSNTV2 unit was sold September 2007; no more will be manufactured. The service will continue, but already MSNTV users are seeing serious slippage in performance and customer service. Many features WebTV’ers relied on are either working erratically or completely non-existent. Oh, the SPAM problem is still with us. I made pointed and timely commentary a few weeks ago on my old blog. Apparently someone at MSN noticed that post. As of now there is less SPAM but it’s still a headache for other users. I really don’t know how this post will be received by the MSN head people, but the clock is ticking on how long MSN will let service continue for the set-top crowd. While most who started online life on WebTV moved on to computer, others have not, preferring to cling to the outdated Little Black Box. I can understand the elderly, disabled, and fixed income folks who need something to keep in touch with family and friends, but web technology marched forward. MSN kept WebTV hopelessly (and purposefully, in my opinion) stuck in 1999.
Now comes GoogleTV which promises to be everything MSNTV refused to be and more. I just came from Games4TV Blog, and after reading the entry on Google TV, I came away wagging a virtual finger at Microsoft. “See? What could have been, but you guys blew it!” Sure, when WebTV Plus debuted, with its expanded TV listings, PiP, faster processor, and much larger memory, there was hope that Bill’s guys were on to something. Maybe they’ve finally seen the light and will give us a decent souped up WebTV. No more of these dribbling “updates” and “upgrades”, stuff we really didn’t need such as the “green dot” for email messages from known senders. MSNTV still lacks a junk mail folder, a standard feature on other decent email providers. They could have upgraded the browser to at least IE 6 but that would be too much of a stretch. They assume most WebTV users are poor, undereducated if not at all, illiterate..Why cater to people whose only online joys are making email sigs and hiding behind MSNTV’s firewalled alt.discuss groups. Hey, Microsoft, all WebTV users do not fit your convenient stereotype. You’ve got some LBB users with advanced degrees, who’ve traveled extensively, who actually read more than TV Guide, who are professionals. People who’ve, myself included, used that Little Black Box for work related tasks.
Maybe when Google TV hits the market, we’ll see how much of a WebTV killer it is, which I’m sure will deliver the final death blow after 14 years of what was an innovative product but now is the laughingstock of the Internet. At least with the new set-top box, the Web will look just it does on my PC, not scrunched up and Osterized to fit WebTV’s paltry screen resolution. When I design a web page (Yes, I expect to log in to Angelfire and Domania to update my pages), I won’t have to worry “Does it look good on the Little Black Box?”
I won’t rush to order my Google TV yet as I still have to dump my old analog TV, buy a decent 19′ to 22′ HDTV for my room, then get U-Verse hooked up to that. For now I’ll let things gel for a while; I have to save the $$$ for this thing! Surprisingly, Logitiech’s Revue (first to manufacture the set-top) retails for $299.99, the very same I paid for the original Philips WebTV Classic in 1997. What a difference 14 years makes! Let’s hope the service is as good, better than, those promotional videos.