Following an earlier report, Microsoft Corp.'s MSN TV division on Tuesday pulled the wraps off a broadband-enabled set-top capable of storing and playing digital music, videos and photos, and grabbing content from the Internet and PC hard drives.
Thanks to USB and Ethernet ports, the box also has embedded home networking abilities, giving users the option to view or listen to content on multiple devices. Its broadband connectivity also opens the door to a video service that bypasses cable operators.
Set to hit retail by mid-October, The MSN TV 2 Internet & Media Player will carry an MSRP of $199.95 and also provide access to applications such as e-mail and Web browsing. Users will also be required to pay a separate subscription fee for premium MSN content. Thomson is making the box and associated wireless keyboards and remote controls under the RCA brand.
On the content and application side, the service will offer access to 200 commercial-free radio stations, a range of video clips from MSN content providers, and an MSN e-mail account and 10 secondary e-mail accounts. MSN TV has deals in place with programmers such as NBC, Discovery Channel, Fox Sports, Food Network and AtomFilms.
On the technical front, the box features a 733 MHz Intel Celeron chip, 129 MB of RAM, 64 MB of flash memory, an Ethernet port and two USB ports. It also includes a dial-up modem for users who do not have access to or subscribe to high-speed services.
Subscriptions to the service change depending on whether users subscribe to MSN or bring their own broadband. With MSN, it runs $9.95 per month, but can go to $99.95 annually if users go with a separate broadband service. Dial-up users can expect to pay $21.95 per month of $199.95 annually.