Sunday, October 12, 2003


Microsoft: The Digital Octopus  

We're all familiar with the wide range of things Microsoft- software, hardware, game consoles, BlueTooth, and most recently, SmartPhones. Then throw in 'Windows Mobile 2003' (a.k.a. PocketPC 2003) software, and tablet PC's and you start to think about how many fingers Microsoft has in a wide variety of pies.

Well, add one to the list: IPTV. Just what that will mean we'll have to wait to find out. Our cousins in The Great North (sometimes known as Canada) will be a step ahead of us, for a change. Microsoft is going to roll out their new service there and then spread it, if it's successful. We can all remember the late WebTV, where Microsoft wanted to merge entertainment and online surfing. It didn't work. Then. Now, it seems, they want to try to make it work the other way, with channel-surfing over the web.

Looked at one way, it makes more sense. One of the big drawbacks was the dismal resolution of the average TV set. At a measley 525 lines, it's a long way behind even the most modest computer monitor. What DID it have? Size. At the point where the largest widespread monitor size was 17", the norm for living room TV watchers was at least 20" and more likely 25-27". But that wasn't enough and WebTV went the way of EGA video cards. These days, it's more common to find a 27"-32" TV gracing the 'entertainment center' and 20"+ monitors don't cost a month's pay. So, there certainly are more choices, and with the coming of HDTV's, things will be better all around.

Something might slip by. That is the possibility that Microsoft has found the killer app for broadband. Music is good, but you can really listen to it just fine over a 56k connection. Steaming video, though, had better be coming in at something better than that. Now, what killer app? How about video on demand? I.e. Don't let the networks tell you what to watch or where to watch it from, just boot up your Windows XP Media Center PC and surf to the channel picker for that old M.A.S.H. episode or the upcoming final segment of Friends. And that leads squarely to movies. New movies, old movies, and cult classics that would never find an audience in 4 figures at any local cinema. Thousands and thousands of movies and all Pay Per View available from dear old Microsoft.

There are a few companies that seem to have had their eyes on this situation for some time. SnapStream, that favorite of Chris Pirillo comes to mind. It turns your PC into an ersatz DVR.

Now rush right out and get the 250 gig hard drive and 21" LCD monitor you've been trying to justify for 6 months. You're going to need them!

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