Among the announcements expected at this year's CES conference is Microsoft's answer to the Web TV craze. Microsoft Television is rumored to be a “stripped-down version of Windows” for your tube, and will run users approximately US$ 200.

YouTube in Your Living Room! Let's Party!

Because Apple and Google have already made moves in this arena with their own set-top boxes, Microsoft seems -- surprise, surprise! -- a bit late in the game. Are reasons to remain optimistic? Some seem to think so: "They'll pose a serious challenge to the new Apple and Google TV devices, largely because the Windows boxes have a polished and familiar TV-program guide that makes it easy to blend and navigate both online and broadcast content," wrote Brier Dudley. 

Moreover, competition breeds innovation. In addition to a familiar setup, Microsoft will likely take this opportunity to employ features yet to be seen in the competition's products. 


On the shadier side of things, television companies are still unsure how they're going to make money as more video content moves to the Web. Accordingly, Fox , ABC, CBS and NBC have all blocked their content from Google TV. The Internet giant has yet to comment on the issue, but a Google spokesperson said some time ago that “Google TV enables access to all the Web content you already get today on your phone and PC, but it is ultimately the content owners’ choice to restrict their fans from accessing their content on the platform." 

To add insult to injury, we'll remind you of the less than optimistic comment from Steve Jobs at the All Things Digital D8 Conference last year: "Ask TiVo. Ask Replay TV. Ask Roku. Ask Vudu. Ask us," he said. "Ask Google in a few months…Sony's tried as well. Panasonic's tried. They've all failed."

Despite such blockage and criticisms, Internet video on television sets is becoming more and more popular. According to market research firm NPD Group, Web-connected TVs now make up 12 percent of all flat panel sales. Further, TV sales between January and November 2010 rose by 38 percent compared with the same time in 2009.

Considering the success of tablet devices and the traction they're predicted to gain this year alone, having an over-sized iPad on the wall kinda seems like an inevitable reality, doesn't it? Perhaps we just weren't ready before-- meaning maybe Microsoft isn't late in the game, but just in time.