Yahoo made Mark Cuban a billionaire (and the bane of the NBA) when it acquired Broadcast.com for more than $5 billion in 1999. When's the last time you heard anyone talk about Broadcast.com? In 2008, AOL dropped $850 million on Facebook-wannabe Bebo only to dump it in 2010 for less than $10 million. (Bebo's original founder just bought the company back from those investors for $1 million.) News Corp. famously lost more than $500 million on MySpace. Cisco flushed nearly $600 million down the toilet on the Flip cam only to kill it within two years. The jury's still out on whether Facebook's acquisition of Instagram and Yahoo's swallowing of Tumblr will join this list a few years from now.
Somebody needs to either a) take away these people's check-signing privileges or b) convince them I'm a juicy acquisition target, ripe for the plucking.
Of course, hindsight is a great form of corrective lens. Back in the dot-comedy era, there was an intense push to get the Internet into everyone's living room, despite the fact the vast majority of Web surfers were still rolling at a leisurely 28Kbps. The fastest home connections were lucky to hit 1.5mbps going downhill with a stiff breeze behind them. And the combination of early HTML design and low-res television CRTswas not pretty-- even the few well-designed websites looked like they had been built out of Legos.
Clearly the notion of surfing the Web via the boob tube was an idea ahead of its time. Oddly, it still is. Even today, with high-definition flat screens and sophisticated Web video services and multi-megabit connection speeds, nobody's really surfing the Web from their couches. People are still using their TVs the way they always have: to watch shows. The big difference is that now they're also doing it via Netflix and Amazon Video and YouTube.
The real Web TV revolution did eventually happen -- but it took place on the other end of the connection, at the server level, not the couch.
RIP, MSN TV. You now join a robust list of Microsoft products moldering in the dustbins of tech history. Can anyone say they're surprised?
How many other dead Microsoft products can you name? Post your favorites below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "MSN TV, we hardly knew ye," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.