The set-top hardware it uses, the MSN TV Internet and Media Player, is a hybrid for an increasingly networked world. Essentially a media receiver, the player lets people surf the Web, display digital photos, watch downloaded video clips and do e-mail — all the time using their television as a monitor.
The new version, called MSN TV 2, adds a port for users with high-speed Internet connections and home networks. Made by Thomson under the RCA brand, it has more processing power than its predecessor but contains no hard drive. The box has 128MB of RAM and 64MB of flash memory.
It sells for $199.95 plus a subscription fee, depending on whether it is used with broadband Internet access or dial-up. The box also includes Wi-Fi connectivity for wireless home networks and slots for memory cards from digital cameras. A wireless keyboard and remote are also included.
Subscribers get access to Microsoft’s MSN service, which includes 200 streaming radio stations and video clips from NBC, the Discovery Channel, FOX Sports and other partners. Users will not be able to watch movies downloaded from the Internet or listen to songs purchased from online services, until next year, when copy-protection software is added to the receiver.
New services also include a photo viewer that displays pictures in a slide show, accompanied by music, MSN Messenger, for online chatting, and parental controls.