I remember back in the late 90's I got my mother on the "internet" by getting her MS's WebTV. For the time and the usage she had, it was a great thing. I finally got her onto a real computer, but she was pretty used to squinting at a 480i CRT 19" TV to do her email... It served it's purpose then, a thin client that users could easily hook up and use and was significantly cheaper than an expensive PC.
The concept was created by Steve Perlman after seeing an early website with recipes for Campbell's various flavors of soup. Despite raising funding of $1.5 million in 1995 to develop the WebTV Internet Terminal, Perlman's company nearly folded when a deal with Sony fell through. Because of a clause in the contract that gave Sony exclusive distribution rights to the set-top box hardware, with WebTV itself planning on raising funds through charging a subscription fee for its dial-up internet access service, the device was slow to launch and nearly didn't make it. Additional funding was found, and Philips joined as an early non-exclusive partner - giving Sony the impetus it needed to review its decision and sign a new non-exclusive agreement of its own.
The device originally sported a 33.6Kb/s dial-up modem, 112MHz MIPS-based processor, 2MB of RAM, 1MB of flash storage and just 2MB of ROM space for the entire operating system. With an explosion of interest in web technologies the company installed base swelled to around 800,000 subscribers - each paying $19.95 a month for their connectivity - by 2000.
Just 20 months after its founding, Microsoft acquired WebTV in a $503 million deal and set about developing TV-based products for the company. WebTV was rebranded as MSN TV back in 2001, with the company launching its last hardware iteration - the Celeron-powered MSN TV2 - back in 2004. Since then the service, including the old-fashioned dial-up service, was still running.
Come to today and MS has finally retired WebTV.
How many of you had WebTV?