RealTime IT News

Microsoft Wants to Take on YouTube, Apple TV

If Internet-based video is the wave of the future, many of us are already drenched with options including such as YouTube, Joost and Apple's iTunes. But today, Microsoft is making a play to have its own video download service added to the mix.

During his keynote speech at the DigitalLife show here in New York, Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore will pitch Microsoft's new, free streaming video service, called Internet TV.

Going into beta on Sept. 28, Microsoft's Internet TV service will enable users to stream content from MSN Video. It will also offer more than 100 hours of additional, ad-supported content, including television shows like "Arrested Development," full-length music concerts, movie trailers, news from MSNBC and sports from FOX Sports.

YuMe, a broadband video advertising network, is handling the ad delivery for Microsoft.

Microsoft Internet TV is designed for both the TV and PC screen, the company said in a statement. The service's video is optimized for broadband, and will be compatible with Microsoft and third-party "media extenders" devices for Windows Media Center.

These devices -- a new crop of which Belfiore will highlight during the show -- wirelessly connect a TV with a PC, delivering TV, PVR, movies, pictures, music and online services to any television set in a home. The products support connections to PCs running Windows Media Center in Windows Vista and generally, Windows XP Media Center Edition.

Media extenders to date include the Xbox 360 console as well as third-party products by a number of networking and storage companies. At the show, Microsoft is expected to showcase new media extenders from Cisco's Linksys unit, D-Link, and Hewlett-Packard, which all unveiled their products today.

Belfiore said in a statement that the devices are "designed to deliver the ultimate entertainment experience to every TV set in your home."

Microsoft has long been supportive of efforts to extend Internet-based multimedia throughout the home. The company's chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates last publicly touted extender devices in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It's also a hot category for other major players in the PC space. Apple Inc. announced its own $299 PC-to-TV device, Apple TV, only a few months before.

Apple's offering is designed to let consumers play their movie and TV downloads on the living room TV, and is compatible with the company's iTunes download service. In May, Apple partnered with Google's YouTube video streaming service to provide additional, specially formatted content for the device.

When Apple launched Apple TV last year, Phil Leigh, analyst with Inside Digital Media, said at the time that such products answered a consumer desire to not just download Internet video, but to watch in on their televisions.

Today, however, Leigh described the Microsoft effort as, "an incremental step in the right direction, I don't see it as much more than that."

Yet a number of Microsoft partners are still banking that consumers' desire remains for watching streaming video on their TVs.

Linksys today announced two Media Center Extender products -- one with a DVD player, and one without -- for estimated street prices of $349.99 and $299.99, respectively.

From D-Link comes the DSM-750 MediaLounge HD Media Center Extender, which supports HD video resolutions of up to 1080i and Windows Media Video (WMV), DivX, and XVid formats. It includes a USB 2.0 port for access to music, photos and videos on removable Flash drives or external hard drives. It's estimated price is also $349.99.

The HP MediaSmart LCD HDTV -- a television with built-in Media Center Extender capability and 802.11n wireless -- will be available in Best Buy stores for an as-of-yet undetermined price.