Television set-top boxes that support simultaneous Internet access are to be announced this week by Microsoft's subsidiary WebTV.
The company claims the $300 devices can pick up a high speed digital signal over existing broadcast methods, which can carry television or Internet data. The aim is to provide information and additional services to TV viewers over the Internet while they are watching their programmes.
The two-year old WebTV, acquired by Microsoft in April for $425 million, already has a product that allows Internet access via a television, but not at the same time as receiving broadcasts, and it has so far failed to make a major impact on the market.
The new model will also allow Internet access via cable television connections, which are faster than standard telephone lines.
If the device proves to be as capable as the company claims, it could help Microsoft in its battle to win over the cable companies, in which it has made significant investments as part of its drive to make money from selling content as well as operating systems.
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