Microsoft is said to be in the final phases of readying a new Apple TV rival that will effectively expand the Windows Media Center to a whole new viewing audience: those in front of their television screen. With Apple's TV set-top box an established success, Microsoft's move makes sense and comes as little surprise. But the challenge for Microsoft is to become the next Apple TV... not the next Google TV, a product that is believed to be performing so poorly that Google is asking its partners to refrain from showcasing Google TV products at CES later this week until forthcoming improvements are made.
With regard to Microsoft, the company has been teasing a new Windows TV box for months, most recently at an Intel conference last September. Already an undeniably big player in the connected electronics market, Microsoft's plan to roll out a version of Windows optimized for set-top boxes and connected TVs should make Apple infinitely more nervous than Google's initial effort. According to published media reports, the software is a version of its embedded device software, overlaid with the Windows Media Center interface, with media streaming and remote-control capabilities.
The boxes are expected to cost around $200 and go on sale later this year. They’ll pose a serious challenge to the new Apple and Google TV devices, largely because the Windows boxes have a polished and familiar TV-program guide that makes it easy to blend and navigate both online and broadcast content.