Ready or not, here comes MSNBC. The 24-hour news service and Web site, a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC that debuted Monday, bears an uncanny resemblance to its top competitor, CNN. So how will MSNBC set itself apart? For starters, reports TIME's Richard Zoglin, the service hopes that guest appearances from familiar NBC personalities like Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley give the cable channel more credibility among viewers. Microsoft's influence ensures a strong technology bent, as evidenced by the channel's hour-long technology show (airing five days a week) and frequent pitches for the channel's eponymous Web site (www.msnbc.com). The Internet-inclined will enjoy some unique touches on the site, such as an option to customize the news. So far, though, MSNBC's site is not as dense and does not offer as many multimedia sound and video clips as does CNN's (www.cnn.com). Even if it bests CNN in ratings, Zoglin says, MSNBC's money-making prospects remain unclear: "News has become a utility. MSNBC and CNN will both struggle because of relatively small audiences interested in 24-hour news, particularly on the Internet." As for Microsoft's stake in the venture: "Microsoft is looking to the day when TV and computers become one." Although a number of companies are developing all-in-one TV-computers, technological hurdles put a mass market for such devices several years away. -- Anita Hamilton.