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Microsoft attempts to enter living room space with Windows Set-top box

Posted in TV and Digital Entertainment by Manas Ganguly on January 5, 2011

Not so long ago, practically all of Microsoft’s profits came from selling Windows and Office. Everything else, including Zune, Xbox and all that it does online, barely was break even for MS. However, with new age computing taking over (tablets and smartphones), Microsoft has not been able to hold the sway and its cash streams are challenged. That is where Microsoft needs to look at domains beyond computing to make money.

2011 could be the most significant year in Microsoft’s history. Sample this:
A year and a half after launch, Bing has started giving Google some serious competition in Search
WinMo resuscitates itself and impresses to gain ground on the iPhone and Android
• This CES, Microsoft will make its first serious move into the connected TV space
• Windows 7 moves into the tablet space.
• Then there is Kinect, which is pretty amazing, going way past the cool intuitive approach of the Nintendo Wii with the simple controller by getting rid of the controller entirely.
• There are those who are betting in favour of Windows 8 action and perhaps an early look at wave 5 for Windows Live, but that is slightly overenthusiastic.

Action for MS starts at CES today. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has been a big hit for entertainment and online video, and Microsoft has been trying to court more media companies to the Xbox. However in CES, MS is going to unveil operating system for connected TVs and set-top boxes. This appears to be the company’s response to Apple TV and Google TV. Microsoft has for long cherished the ambition of being able to enter the living room space and its earlier attempts haven’t been so successful. MS’s list of failures in the living room domain includes Web TV, Microsoft TV, Media Room, Ultimate TV and more.

What is expected at CES is that MS would showcase a stripped down version of its embedded device software, overlaid with the Windows Media Center interface, with media streaming and remote-control capabilities.

While the $200 price is a little steep for a Windows set top box, the tag finds comfort in the fact that Windows has some experience in polished and familiar TV-program guide that makes it easy to blend and navigate both online and broadcast content

Microsoft will also be spending a lot of money advertising itself as a powerful player in the consumer space this year, but will those ad dollars gain Microsoft some traction as a “cool” company? So far the “cool” still belongs to Apple and Google, but with the right new products (and those ad dollars) we could begin to see a shift in perception for Microsoft as a consumer company.

The Google-Apple Face-off (Part II): TVs, Music, Social Networks and more

Posted in New Technologies, The Technology Ecosystem by Manas Ganguly on September 13, 2010

Google and Apple have increasingly faced off in consumer electronics and software programs of all stripes. For one thing, there was the surprise revelation of Apple’s Ping last week, a social network all about music that’s integrated with the latest version of iTunes. Google’s plans for a social network of its own are still unclear, though rumors of a “Google Me” service have been around for some months.

There are reports by Reuters that Google is in talks with music labels for a music download store and a digital song locker — space that Apple clearly has a vested interest in.Google has acknowledged that the company did have plans to expand into music but again, the details are not clear.

The only missing piece of the television puzzle is the stuff consumers are most interested in — mainstream content. During the unveiling of the new Apple TV, Steve Jobs said consumers would be able to rent first-run movies for $4.99 or high-definition TV shows for just $0.99, initially just from ABC and Fox.”We think the rest of the studios will see the light and get on board with us pretty soon,” Jobs said. Google has yet to announce content partners, stressing instead the world of free online videos.

Schmidt also said Google would announce partnerships later this year with makers of tablet computers that would use Google’s new Chrome operating system, due to be launched soon, rather than its Android phone software that has been used for mobile devices until now.Google plans to make its Chrome browser, which competes with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox, the center of an operating system that would offer an alternative to Microsoft Windows.

The Google Apple Face-off (Part I): Taking the Web to TVs

Posted in New Technologies, Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on September 10, 2010

It’s Apple versus Google in a growing battle for the living room with potential benefits and innovative content for consumers.

Steve Jobs unveiled the revamped Apple TV on September 1st. The move aims to cross the divide between the TV and the PC. Less than a week after Apple’s announcement, Google CEO Eric Schmidt demonstrated a new service designed to do more or less exactly the same thing — and set to hit U.S. living rooms and TV screens this fall. Google’s free service would allow full Internet browsing via the television. Schmidt also declared that Google would work with a variety of programmers and electronics manufacturers to bring this service to consumers. Google also hinted that it would collaborate with content providers but it is very unlikely to venture into actual content production.Manufacturers such as Logitech, Sony and Samsung have already announced that they are looking into or working with the company to develop hardware in time for Google TV.

The competing products from Google and Apple heats up the battle for television advertising, which market analysts that say could be $180 billion globally. Apple’s latest device, a compact box that hooks into TVs and will cost just $99, allows viewers to stream shows and movies that they have rented or downloaded from iTunes. It can access YouTube,Flickr and other sites as well. Google TV will allow viewers to search and watch programs from the Internet and their DVR recordings. Sony TVs and blu-ray players, as well as Logitech TVs, will come with Google TV installed, though a separate stand-alone device will also be available.

Google versus Apple apart, these emerging devices could transform the way users find and watch videos.
Which device will win? It’s anyone’s guess at this point, though the two devices seem to have slightly different slants. If Apple pursues a strategy similar to that behind the iTunes music store, it will partner with all major television providers and bring cheap uniformity — something consumers will love. Google appears to be opting for ubiquity, allowing open access to all Internet content. it’s the same division seen in smartphone platforms from the two companies — and the Android platform has proved wildly popular lately.

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