December 23, 2007
TV 2.0: Microsoft's next big idea
For the last couple of years, I've been asking the question, "What's Microsoft's next big idea?"
What comes after Windows, Office and paid software? What comes after Open Source reaching critical mass?
Most of the answers I got, from both inside and outside the company, were pretty vague. The certainly didn't feel all that convincing.
Then I went to Paris a few weeks ago and the pieces of the puzzle started to come together: "Madison Avenue, you work for Redmond Now."
And then today I saw this article on CNET: "Microsoft quietly combines TV efforts."
Suddenly I had a moment of clarity.
My geek friends and I spend a lot of time in front of our computers, sitting at our desks. So when we see the tech battles being fought, we see the desktop as the primary battlefield.
Suddenly it hits home. The next big tech war won't be fought on the desktop, like it was back in the 1980s. It'll be fought in the living room.
My guess is, whatever TV becomes in the next century, Microsoft wants to own it. Or at least, own a huge chunk of it. And that battle will be fought and won [or lost] sometime in the next decade.
Anybody got a better idea, let's hear it.
[UPDATE:] Microsoft's Steve Clayton just sent me a message on Twitter:
"@gapingvoid of course the fact that we began investing in the future of TV over 10 years ago will be lost on most"
Posted by hugh macleod at December 23, 2007 11:55 PM
@Hugh - if you are right, then Microsoft already has a huge head start. I have zero Google in my living room.
But I do have two XBOX 360's and a Media Center PC. Oh - and my Zune 80 in it's multimedia docking station.
And two laptops (mine, and one for guests to use).
And my Windows Mobile based cell phone.
That is a LOT of MS in my living room already. Add a TiVo blade to the XBOX 360, and get me a set top box that's also a PVR/Windows Home Server storage device, Wireless Router, cable or DSL router and my, oh my.
That is a lot of Microsoft.
This has been obvious, for quite some time. First they tried set-top boxes, now they're trying it with Xboxes. Similarly, they're fighting hard to ensure that their video codecs and associated DRM (witness Vista DRM-embedding) become the common standards. This DRM then becomes their legally enforced technological monopoly.
At least that's how I view it.
Barry, it'll be interesting to see if anyone comes up with viable DRM-free TV. A version that Hollywood would want to do business with, that is.
Seems to me, Open Source's value comes from the socializing, not the monetary. Both are hard currencies.
The only people I know with more than MS Xbox in their living room are geeks. Wake up call: these are not typical people. The law of marketing is divergence, not convergence. Be first in a new category. TV is hardly new. Ray Ozzie gave us Lotus Notes, wow. Why do tech nerds think they understand media, let alone think they pwn the media?
Microsoft's next big thing: a massive decline followed by re-invention. IBM have done it. Apple have done. It follows that Microsoft will copy ;-)
You know, Rob, indeed, you do not have any Google in your living room, as google is busy cashing for the clicks ... but think of this: You are watching a nice TV show on Discovery (on your Vista Media Center) ... which is about Africa, and while watching it, you see some "contextual" or better said "con-vidual" ads about Safaris and cheap flights to Africa. Oh, I forgot, served by Google, as Google has an exlcusive distribution contract with Discovery.
My TV channel will be DRM free.
I have a MacMini hooked up to my 60-inch HDTV and I love it. I also have an Xbox, but the MacMini is more open than the Xbox is and makes less noise, too. Plus gives me full access to the Web. You should see my Flickr photos on my TV. Really rocks.
Whatever TV becomes in the future, it will centre on the content creators. Witness the WGA strike that currently denudes network TV in the US.
Yep. That big flat screen plasma HDTV is nothing but a computer with a cable tuner. Mounted on the wall. Think Apple TV. Wii social gaming. Rupert Murdoch's new thing that's coming that will shake up the world. Fun, fun, fun. Redmond? How does Redmond feature in this?
Sorry but the real battlefield is mobile phones (compare growth of mobile phones vs. desktop vs. TV and you will see my point) and MS is not in a good shape - not while WM6 stays the way it's.
Anonymous, yeah, phones is another big one. Of course, I did say, "Whatever TV becomes", and you could argue that maybe the TV and the phone will evolve into a third ubiquitous thing.
And then lets not forget other household items- fridges, tables, AC units and the like.
We live in interesting times...
This topic is so last century (as Steve points out). People always want to know 'where' Microsoft will move next. But, Microsoft has always been very transparent about its aspirations and vision: 'A computer in every home and on every desk'. The key word is 'computer'. Wherever the 'computer' goes, Microsoft will seek to go to provide commerical software to support them. Into the datacentre, on the road in phones, in cars and yes, in the living rooms with TVs and consoles. TVs are interesting because (a) they are still underserved by software to enhance the experience (though DVRs have changed that a lot, there is still a lot of debate how much software which adds inter-ACTIVITY can enhance a largely passive, ie. inactive experience), and (b) they are a popular electronic device for the digital Late Majority (but if anything the GenX and GenY folks are watching less TV than ever). Hugh had it right months ago. The interesting story is not about the 'where', it's about the 'how', ie. Software+Services.
"The interesting story is not about the 'where', it's about the 'how', ie. Software+Services."
I agree with that, Bruce. Perhaps the reason TV as we know it is dying is simply because it's so resistant to interactivity.
The interactive genie is out of the bottle, and passive can't compete with it.
When MS paid $400M for WebTV, we scoffed... When they went and built MSNBC, we were confused. When they decided to go head-to-head with Nintendo, we started to "get it". And the genius behind all this, is that these choices were all made more than 10 years ago...
Pretty damned insightful, if you ask me.
Take care. mjl