Apple, Microsoft Address Next-Gen TV

Apple and Microsoft this week updated several of their existing products to focus on marrying them to the living room TV.

At Mac World 2007, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled Apple TV, a box that allows users to sync iTunes content to TV sets. Formerly known as iTV, Apple TV has a 40 GB hard drive that can store up to 50 hours of video, 9,000 songs, 25,000 photos or a combination of each, and can deliver high-definition 720 output (640x480). Connections include HDMI, component video, analog and optical ports and support for high-speed AirPort 802.11 wireless networking. The "Apple Remote" allows users to browse content on their TV sets from up to 30 feet away. Apple TV can auto-sync content from one computer or stream content from up to five additional computers wirelessly to the TV set.

"Apple TV is like a DVD player for the 21st century," said Jobs. "It's a really cool box."

Apple TV will ship in February for a suggested retail price of $299.

At CES2007 in Las Vegas, Microsoft announced that it has upgraded its most popular hardware, the Xbox 360 gaming platform, to offer IPTV access.

After years of false starts with its TV software, Microsoft hopes that integrating its Microsoft TV IPTV Edition software with the Xbox 360 will give the company the penetration into the cable and telco market it has long sought. Currently AT&T is the largest provider of Microsoft's IPTV software in the U.S., offering it through its fledgling U-verse IP-based video service.

Details on the available services are sketchy but the added functionality--in addition to offering streaming broadcasts, assorted EPGs and other interactive options--will reportedly allow users to record television shows to a hard drive while playing Xbox Live, as well as voice chat and text messaging.

IPTV on Xbox 360 will be available by the 2007 holiday season.