Microsoft has put a hardware veteran in charge of its interactive TV business, suggesting that the company is working on an answer to Google TV and Apple TV.Tom Gibbons headed Microsoft Hardware — keyboards and mice, which was a small but profitable business for years — before joining the Windows Phone team in 2009.
There, he led the group that oversaw hardware reference designs for the Windows Phone 7 handsets. Those are the guidelines that dictate every Windows Phone must have three buttons, a particular type and size of touch screen, and so forth.
Microsoft has been rumoured to be working on some sort of new TV or video service since last fall. One report said the devices would run the Windows Embedded operating system overlaid with the Media centre interface and start around $200. They were supposed to debut at CES in January, but never showed up.
With Gibbons now leading the charge, the company is probably trying to find hardware partners to build boxes to run the service — just like it did with Windows Phone 7. And just like Google initially did with Google TV.
Another possibility: Microsoft might try to work directly with TV makers to build the service directly into new TVs. Google has also taken this approach, along with many other video service providers.
The company has had an awful history in the TV business, but some analysts think that its presence in the living room with the Xbox could help it dominate quickly. Microsoft also has strong relationship with Netflix, whose CEO Reed Hastings is on the company’s board of directors.