Naturally, Microsoft contends that variations of Windows CE, the slimmed-down version of its flagship operating system, will be the best choice for the brains inside these devices. In fact, the new WebTV boxes have their own operating system with a bit of Windows CE running underneath. By doing this, Microsoft is encouraging software developers to write applications for its set tops, using Windows CE tools they already know. Small applications for the WebTV devices, as well as games and other home-oriented programs, are expected to ship this year.
It’s a long way from the latest version of WebTV to Microsoft Icebox OS 4.0. But while Microsoft and other companies wait for the Internet appliance market to develop, they’re quietly turning your home PC into something that looks more like a TV.
According to specifications proposed earlier this year by Intel, Microsoft, and Compaq–all of which have some clout in such matters–a year from now, most new home computers will have TV tuner cards that can receive digital television broadcasts. The companies say the tuner cards will add less than $50 to the price of a PC, and that cost will be absorbed in the normal erosion of PC pricing.