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Mediaroom: Microsoft's 'operator friendly brand'

What's in a name?

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Comment A briefing last week from Microsoft's Christine Heckart, the general manager of marketing for Microsoft's freshly named Mediaroom TV business, attempted to straighten out one or two misconceptions about the new name, and additional features added recently to the software.

Heckart continues to push the party line of the term "ingredient brand" explaining that Microsoft TV IPTV Edition, was not only too long to use for consumer branding, but it made no sense leaving "Microsoft" as the key word, given that Microsoft is known for different things.

But after all the explanations - that it was too much of a mouthful, that it came out of operator requests to cobrand with Microsoft, and that it had to be a subservient brand or consumers would call Microsoft for support instead of its IPTV operator customers - we still think there's another key reason behind the name change.

As Microsoft's strategy goes forward in media, it will inevitably touch all of the potential offerings that its rivals are chasing. Those rivals include Google as much as Sony, as much as Nokia Siemens, as much as Nokia's handset division, so the offerings that Microsoft MUST end up being associated with are portals, VoIP software, mobile VoIP software, movie and games services over Xbox Live, and MSN, as well as portable media players and eventually portable gaming devices.

These can (almost) all be offered in one of two ways, direct to a consumer, or through one or other kind of operator. Since Microsoft has the majority of its TV business through traditional incumbent telcos (although it has some Latin America business in cable, and a minor trial in the US with Comcast), when any of these businesses are to be offered by a telco, the product name will include Mediaroom. When Microsoft sells something direct to consumers, the product name will be one of Microsoft's own product names.

This ruse allows the different divisions of Microsoft to pursue both operator sales and "over the top" sales, with some clarity about which is which.

Heckart wouldn't say it like that and might not even agree specifically, preferring to say things like it being an aspirational brand, and it "being our proposition to service providers", instead. There is no charge to use the brand "Mediaroom" or "Microsoft Mediaroom" or "Powered by Microsoft Mediaroom". Heckart insists that it just "helps them to be more successful in this space", and then went on to give us an update on where the Mediaroom effort is today.

"The Mediaroom name suggests something that offers media, music and movies, giving access to your own media room, where you can get access on any device, wherever you are," but Heckart refuses to go into detail of just when this kind of capability will emerge, though hinting that the plan would begin to unroll significantly later this year.

But it does raise a number of interesting questions. Does Microsoft mean on any device or does it mean on any Microsoft device? Certainly the arrival of a placeshifting and a mobile TV strategy are overdue for Microsoft, both for its partner operators, and for sale directly to consumers.

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