Is TV turning into the PC, or vice versa?
The debate continues, but Microsoft today placed its bet that the PC will dominate the home electronics market when it inked a deal with Hughes Electronics to offer Windows 95 users access to Hughes' DirecTV satellite television service.
Currently, DirecTV subscribers receive 175 channels of programming through a pizza-sized satellite dish, remote control, and decoder box that they connect to their TV sets.
Microsoft said today that it is developing a version of the digital decoder box for Windows 95 PCs that will let users access the same programming as TV viewers. Hughes plans to add the Windows 95 services to its list of subscription offerings by the end of the year.
Windows 95 users will also be able to tap into data broadcasts via DirecTV, including multimedia magazines, Web pages, and data services tied to video programming. PC users still shouldn't expect full-fledged Web access from DirecTV, a service that is more akin to broadcast programming. Instead of surfing Web sites freely, DirecTV users will have to consult a programming guide and select pages from a list of popular Web sites, said Ed Huguez, vice president of New Media and Interactive Programming for DirecTV.
Hughes will also broadcast information provided by recognized national publications in the form of multimedia magazines, Huguez said. Exact pricing has not been determined, but users can expect to pay a basic monthly fee for both video programming and several multimedia magazines.
Hughes officials said a Macintosh version of the service will follow the Windows 95 version.
"Computer companies want to make PCs the entertainment centers of the house," Huguez added. "Eventually all these service will be delivered to a set, whatever that set is. At some point, the [TV and PC] will converge."
Hughes' existing DirecPC service already provides Internet access but does not combine it with the broadcasting features available on DirecTV.