Microsoft has officially pulled the plug on one of the oldest relics on the Internet: MSN TV. The company said it was a "difficult decision" to close the long-standing service, and is now working with customers to ensure that the transition in as seamless as possible.
Formerly known as WebTV, the service was originally developed by WebTV Networks, a company co-founded by Steve Perlman who went on to found the streaming games service OnLive. Two other notable early employees were Andy Rubin who went on to develop the Android operating system, and Joe Britt who would be one of two co-founders for Danger Research.
WebTV was marketed as a hassle-free way of getting on the Internet without needing a PC, offering a set-top box and keyboard/mouse combo that connected to a standard television and a phone line. The service launched in September 1996, and set-top boxes were made available in stores by Sony, Philips and others. The monthly fee was $19.95 for full Web browsing and email access.
Microsoft partially funded WebTV from the start, and eventually bought the company in 1997 for $425 million. Six years after WebTV's founding, the service was re-branded to MSN TV, and in 2004 Microsoft introduced MSN TV2 capable of broadband access. Eventually the service lost ground to the wide number of devices that can access the Internet including smartphones, tablets, Smart TVs and more.
"The web has continued to evolve at a breathtaking pace, and there are many new ways to access the internet," reads the closure FAQ. "Accordingly, we have made the difficult decision to end the MSN TV service on September 30th, 2013. We are working with our customers to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible."
Microsoft suggests that customers who don't have a computer or smartphone can head to the local library, local school, a friend's house or a family member's house to check their Outlook.com mail. The closure FAQ also states that once MSN TV is closed, set-box owners will not be able to use the MSN TV device on other Internet services.