Microsoft (MSFT) is expected to reveal Microsoft TV set-top boxes, its answer to Google (GOOG) TV, at today's Consumer Electronic Show. The company would be wise to learn from Google's bumpy ride into televisions, especially since Google had to put its own agenda on hiatus last year to regroup and strategize.
Keep Things Simple
Television is one of the most standardized forms of digital entertainment ever made. Visual improvements aside, the only major differences between the first TVs and modern TVs are cable and dish options. Microsoft will need to showcase the benefits of having an Internet-connected television while minimizing the changes the user will have to go through to take advantage of it. In short, don't ruin the user's routine.
Focus on Smooth Controls
One of the biggest problems with Google TV is the over-complicated keyboard/joystick hybrid controller -- which not only was meant to replace the classic remote control, but was required by Google for all Google TV developers. Microsoft has a tendency to make things more complicated than necessary, too, though, as Christine Warren of Mashable notes, it has created solid user experiences through its Windows Media Center platform on the XBox 360 and PC:
...when it comes to a remote friendly, cohesive HTPC experience, Microsoft has a terrific offering. Windows Media Center in Windows 7 blows away Apple's Front Row experience. It also rivals the offerings that Boxee, Plex and others are putting forth on various set-top boxes. The downside has been that you need to actually connect a computer to your television (or buy an Xbox 360).
Make It Cross-Platform
The Windows Media Center is already on multiple platforms, but it is absolutely essential that Microsoft not let DRM restrictions or other political issues prevent users from enjoying a program across different devices. For this, Microsoft should look towards the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle model: Read a book on the Kindle device, bookmark it, and pick up where you left off on the same Kindle device or on the iPad, iPod, PC, Mac, Blackberry, and so on. It will not only create a better experience, but also create Microsoft TV customers out of XBox 360 and PC users who would like to create a seamless experience.