Microsoft’s CE End Game? Not Really

Russell Beattie has stirred up a hornet’s nest by making an assertion that Microsoft’s DRM strategy and other efforts will make it “the winner” in connected home. He makes some good arguments, and while I buy some of them, his broad thesis might be a bit premature. Why? For starters, despite talking about its connected home and digital media strategies, Microsoft has thus far not delivered. Analysis is one thing, actual usage is another. For instance, I tried Windows Media Players recently, and well lets just say, it is as satisfying as watching Tampa Bay take a licking at the hands of New York Yankees.

Russell has taken a very US centric view of the world. Last year when I was visiting India, one of the executives at Reliance Infocomm told me that US was cursed by “Wintel thinking.”That’s why he found the idea to adapt a PC to a TV ludicrous. More than anything Doc Searls hits the nail on the head

Years ago, when “interactive TV” trials were busy failing, a Sony executive said something like “the only thing most TV viewers want to interact with is the refrigerator.” That was Swann’s point, essentially. Mine is this: No matter how much intelligence, integration, management or connectedness one adds to television (or anything), you don’t change what it’s originally for.

Microsoft Media Center PC as an example – at the very least it costs $1000 and at the high end it costs $2500, which is bit too much for an average joe. A DVD player, a PVR and other assorted devices cost less than $500 and are much easier to use, and well more dependable.

I think the biggest challenge for Microsoft faces is the set-top boxes companies like SBC and Comcast are willing to give away for their triple play services. SBC’s latest box is made by 2Wire, using Linux at its core. Similarly other set-top box makers are aware of the predatory nature of Microsoft, and don’t want to be reduced to the status of mere box makers. I think that is the key point – Microsoft’s past is impeding its future.

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