RealTime IT News

Microsoft Revels in UltimateTV Product

Not one to dally, Microsoft Corp. Thursday took its WebTV product from the courtroom to the showroom.

The company released the price structure of its Ultimate TV service, which offers viewers digital video, interactive television, Internet access and the ability to pause live TV. Monthly subscriptions costs range from $9.95 to $14.95.The service is reliant on the DirectTV receiver, which is sold separately.

"For the same price as traditional DVR-only services, UltimateTV subscribers get a whole lot more," said Bruce Leak, president of Microsoft WebTV Networks. "You can watch one show while you record another, interact with enhanced TV programming, respond to interactive offers with a click of the remote, and communicate with family and friends."

The announcement comes on the heels of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, which accused Microsoft of falsely advertising the WebTV system.

The resolution requires Microsoft to clearly disclose long-distance telephone toll charges that some consumers may incur while using the service. The settlement "will require reimbursement to certain former WebTV Internet service subscribers for long-distance charges they incurred in the past," according to the FTC.

The FTC took issue with statements like "Complete...Internet access" and "WebTV brings all the incredible entertainment and information of the Internet right to your TV".

"In fact, WebTV system users are unable to access all of the content on the Internet," the FTC said. "Some of the content that is unavailable to WebTV users includes files created using popular data formats or programming languages."

"This is the only fully integrated product offering with DIRECTV programming, digital video recording, interactive television and Internet access in one complete package," Leak emphasized. "It is also the only satellite receiver to allow viewers to watch two shows on DIRECTV at the same time, watch one show while recording another, and record up to 35 hours of digital-quality programming for later viewing on their own 'personal lineup.'

"Viewers can choose from more than 500 hours per week of interactive television, respond to promotions with the click of a remote, and stay in touch with family and friends via e-mail. The Advanced Program Guide provides viewers with the ability to watch and record programs up to 14 days out," he added.