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Video services

Microsoft's Promise: TV Anytime You Want It

LAS VEGAS -- 2009 International CES -- As usual, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s moves in PC, TV, and wireless phone software are the first, and often loudest, noises at this show about gadgets.

For broadband service providers, the Microsoft keynote, featuring its CEO, Steve Ballmer, was a mixed bag. For all the hints of better things to come in the IPTV universe, there is the constant concern that consumers are edging ever closer to bypassing traditional pay TV services completely.

Ballmer, as you might expect, tried to be optimistic in a tough economy. Shortly after noting that Microsoft spent $8 billion in research and development, Ballmer said: "I believe our digital lives will only get richer."

But during the Wednesday night keynote, Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices group, had the two most relevant announcements for broadband service providers.

First, Bach said the company has enhanced its IPTV platform, Mediaroom, which now reaches 2.5 million consumer subscribers via service provider efforts such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s U-verse.

Bach says a new feature, called Mediaroom Anytime, will allow TV viewers to go back in time and watch programs that have already aired, even if those programs weren't scheduled to be recorded on the consumer's DVR. (See Microsoft Offers Anytime TV.)

Depending on how service providers deploy it, the Mediaroom Anytime feature could allow consumers to restart a currently airing program, or simply watch something that aired hours ago as if the program were being viewed live.

Bach says Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY) will be the first carrier to use the new IPTV enhancement. It's no surprise that the initial deployment is overseas, given how touchy the U.S. content makers have been with the rise of the RS-DVR and their programming rights. (See Inside Cablevision's 'RS-DVR' .)

Bach's on-demand symphony
Bach also brought news that could worry broadband providers, who aren't getting a cut of all the entertainment dollars being shuttled back and forth across their networks.

He revealed that, since the launch of the Xbox 360, an online community numbering more than 17 million has spent more than $1 billion on Xbox LIVE, Microsoft's entertainment on-demand service.

That could be a disquieting figure for service providers, which are in a price fight to the death with cable operators and desperate to prove they offer value to consumers, as Microsoft's game system and online service give consumers much of what they look for in a subscription-based pay TV service.

Microsoft and Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) launched Netflix on Xbox LIVE in November, giving consumers the ability to use their game system as a gateway to instantly watch thousands of movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix. At this show, Microsoft announced that Windows Mobile customers could now update and view their Netflix movie queues, giving them mobile control over their content while away from home.

Even with the launch of Windows 7 beta -- the almost-ready version of Microsoft's latest PC operating system -- Microsoft is taking video content over-the-top. On the show floor this week, Microsoft is talking up a feature in the new OS where an electronic program guide tells a viewer what Internet TV content is available whenever they connect to a broadband network.

— Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:14:48 PM
re: Microsoft's Promise: TV Anytime You Want It I think the catalyst to make it work is pretty big. The kind of caching required would allow MSFT to sell a lot more server software licenses.
bollocks187 12/5/2012 | 4:14:48 PM
re: Microsoft's Promise: TV Anytime You Want It MSFT has problems keeping its own core business in a stable operating condition. MSFT TV anytime will not be a quality offering and is just hype.
Greenbone 12/5/2012 | 4:14:47 PM
re: Microsoft's Promise: TV Anytime You Want It ...and high prices.
Greenbone 12/5/2012 | 4:14:47 PM
re: Microsoft's Promise: TV Anytime You Want It The netflix partnership is a powerful one, but....

....and this is a big BUT....

The selection is very limited - and the quality of the titles available is very poor.

I've been eager to see the Xbox become a more robust platform, and wanted to pull the plug on my Comcast cable package when I heard Netflix would be available via xbox, but it just isn't quite on par (yet). This isn't saying much, as the quality and selection of on-demand movies from Comcast has dropped recently. Even the titles offered by the premium services are getting worse.

I think we're in for a sea-change catalysed by the poor economy. Cable / satellite subscribers (content-wise) will flee the services due to poor content.
Creagh 12/5/2012 | 4:14:45 PM
re: Microsoft's Promise: TV Anytime You Want It This is all very well ..however, there will be no proper QoS for these services if innovative new dynamic optical network solutions are not adopted by the carriers that microsoft relies upon, from next generation networking companies like Intune Networks, for example.
nodak 12/5/2012 | 4:14:43 PM
re: Microsoft's Promise: TV Anytime You Want It Something to think about, if Sony decides it wants to be a content provider (which it appears to from the CES comments), what happens if they decide to pull licensing on their movie library? They are well known for not sharing (see BETA tapes) and own a massive library of films, so they could corner a very large part of this market if desired.
grunt 12/5/2012 | 4:14:40 PM
re: Microsoft's Promise: TV Anytime You Want It QoS concerns are significantly mitigated given the non-live nature of the netflix movie play services.
I love the 360->netflix thing the only complaint I have is the content selection.

Clearly netflix will have a hard time securing the digitial rights for a great selection when I could watch easiliy 40 movies a month and they currently charge me $17 or so...

The HD movie I rented from microsoft xbox live to watch on the 360 (Get SMart) played and paused great on Fios but was ~$6...
grunt 12/5/2012 | 4:14:40 PM
re: Microsoft's Promise: TV Anytime You Want It QoS concerns are significantly mitigated given the non-live nature of the netflix movie play services.
I love the 360->netflix thing the only complaint I have is the content selection.

Clearly netflix will have a hard time securing the digitial rights for a great selection when I could watch easiliy 40 movies a month and they currently charge me $17 or so...

The HD movie I rented from microsoft xbox live to watch on the 360 (Get SMart) played and paused great on Fios but was ~$6...
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