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Mediaroom: Microsoft's 'operator friendly brand'

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Heckart is clear that one of the major attractions is the use of an Xbox as part of the Mediaroom strategy. "We have 23 customers for Mediaroom, with 18 of these announced and 10 offering services which are commercially available. I would say that about half of our customers are interested in looking more closely at the use of Xbox within their strategy," she said, carefully avoiding whether or not AT&T was one of those 10 or so operators.

Our thoughts have always been that the involvement of the Xbox as a part of Mediaroom strategy is likely to have only come about in the US, where the Microsoft brand, and the Xbox brand is strong, so we have always thought AT&T must be one of those mandating Mediaroom to have an Xbox element.

As for the new services and features that were announced, they really come about as more of a minor update, overdue at this point and we covered the release in our earlier coverage of the Mediaroom announcement. There are new media sharing capabilities, an applications Development environment and toolkit. The Home media sharing allow photographs to travel from a PC to a TV, and this is partly facilitated by a new XHTML and Javascript capable browser in the client, something Microsoft has been keen to avoid in previous iterations.

There are also tools so that portal data held by an operator can be delivered over the private TV network (not the internet) to a TV screen, so that applications that are available on a web site might be made available, through the same code base, to TV viewers.

"There are 70 tool kits delivered so far", said Heckart, "It's a controlled release and each of our customers has between one and 5 developer partners that they work closely with which are helping them to build new interactive services, so it's mostly to this type of organization, not to systems integrators that we have shipped the tool kits," said Heckart, and she gave the examples of Yahoo, working with AT&T in the US and Emuse with BT in the UK as the type of development partner. The toolkit allows development on a PC, and offers a Mediaroom simulator, and access to a developer website.

Comment: Overall, we do not buy the idea that operators would really want to use the Microsoft brand in any way shape or form when they offer new services. Right now the news of Microsoft delay problems with IPTV is so widely spread in the media that many consumers are already aware of it, and telling consumers that their TV experience is driven by Microsoft is not reassuring.

If it was true, Microsoft would not need to go and build a new brand from scratch. Instead, we continue to see Microsoft needing to develop both operator friendly and operator unfriendly services and the word Mediaroom, when added to the front of anything Microsoft has (including Xbox) is simply a way of saying that it is an operator delivered service. When the number of Microsoft offerings gets more complicated in this sector, and it will, the distinction may come to have real meaning.

Copyright © 2007, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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