Microsoft this week took its first steps into the television ad business with its purchase of Navic Networks, a company that delivers targeted interactive advertisements to digital cable boxes. The Massachusetts firm will join Microsoft's Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group, which is also responsible for the software giant's online ad efforts.

"Television media represents the largest percentage of advertisers and agencies' media budget today," said Microsoft senior vice president Brian McAndrews. "Together, Navic and Microsoft will deliver addressable television advertising solutions to help our partners better manage media spend by increasing advertiser reach and ROI, and maximizing publisher yield on television advertising."

Navic's Admira technology places overlays on top of advertisements so that user can interact directly with on-air ad campaigns. It's hard not to imagine this as looking like a Web pop-up ad, though as is so often the case with advertisements, there's always a willing audience. Currrently, Navic serves ads to 35 million customers, but competing projects are in the works by various cable operators as well.

The Navic purchase allows Microsoft to compete with Google in yet another market, as Google already has services for delivering ads via radio and TV. Microsoft also offers a digital cable TV software platform and various IP-based TV initiatives as well, providing the company with a particularly well-rounded end-to-end platform.