Where is Microsoft in the Apple, Google TV race?
The black turtlenecked-denim jeansed wonder swooped down into San Francisco again today with “one more thing” to dazzle Appleytes — new iPods  and a new and improved Apple TV. But Apple TV, along with a coming offering from Google, seem to be crowding out Microsoft MCTS Training in the competition for the TV operating system space.

The new Apple TV appliance unveiled today and avaialble later this month will sell for the low-low price of $99 and will be capable of streaming movies, TV shows and other video content from the Web. TV shows can be rented for 99 cents an episode and movies for $4.99 each from iTunes. Content can also be streamed from Netflix, YouTube, Flickr and MobileMe sites. Other content such as music, videos or photos, can be delivered to a TV set from where it’s stored on PCs or Macs.

Not to be outdone, Google introduced Google TV in May, a platform for applications built on its Android and Google Chrome operating systems to deliver Web-based content to a TV screen. Appliances from such companies as Sony, Logitech and Intel are due out this fall that integrate Google TV into TVs, set-top boxes and Blu-ray players, Google says.

But where is Microsoft? Andrew Eisner, director of community and content for Retrevo.com, a shopping and review site for consumer electronics, wants to know and blogged about the topic today.

True, the owner of a Microsoft Xbox game console can use it to download movies from Netflix, the video rental site, but Eisner sees no evidence yet that Microsoft is going to leverage its Windows 7 PC OS or coming Phone 7 mobile OS to deliver content to a TV like Apple is doing with the iPhone OS or Google with Android or Chrome.

Beyond Xbox, “I don’t think they’re going to be a full player in the TV OS battle,” he said, of Microsoft.

Microsoft’s previous attempts to marry the TV and the computer have been few and unlamented, Eisner recalled, including WebTV, which couldn’t resolve the different screen resolutions between TVs and PCs, and the Windows Media Center PC, which he said was popular mostly with a niche market of videophiles.

Further fragmenting the TV OS market, however, are attempts by various TV set manufacturers to deliver the Web to their branded sets, he added. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, he noted several different TV set makers touting Web-connected apps and services from such content providers as Netflix, Blockbuster, Pandora, and Skype. Set maker LG calls their platform NetCast, while Samsung was promoting Samsung Apps.

Of course, this is a movie we’ve seen before.

As every other new technology frontier is discovered and pursued, a number of players emerge and fight it out but eventually the herd is thinned, two survivors emerge, and then just one. Think Betamax vs. VHS or HD-DVD vs. Blue-ray.

“One standard [TV] OS would be great for consumers who don’t have to worry about interoperability or compatibility,” Eisner said. To be sure, it would be a problem if you can watch a movie on the Sony in the living room but not on the Samsung in the bedroom. “But you know as well as I do that that never happens.”

Eisner thinks the TV OS competition will ultimately come down to Apple vs. Google. But I do wonder what Microsoft MCITP Certification is going to do and, if that is nothing, why?