Author Archive

Xbox Live five years on – what's next?

Xbox Live five years on - what's next?Microsoft’s Xbox Live has come a long way since it launched in November of 2002. Xbox Live started out as a multiplayer gaming network, but today the 8 million users with Live accounts do much more than just play games. Users can download movies and television shows, chat with friends, and more. Even Microsoft now describes the service as a “comprehensive unified online entertainment network”. Marketing-speak at its finest, but it’s true – Xbox Live is a key component of Microsoft’s connected entertainment vision. In this post we look at the state of Xbox Live today, and explore some of the ways Microsoft will likely enhance it in the future.

Continue reading »

Is the Zune doomed?

Microsoft ZuneIn a little less than two months, the Zune will celebrate its first birthday. Things seem to be going well for the Zune — Microsoft reached its first sales target, they recently dropped the price of the Zune, and speculation is rampant that the company will expand the lineup of Zune devices in time for the holiday season. Yet with the recent iPod announcements from Apple, and the departure of an important product manager, one can’t help but wonder if the Zune is, well, doomed. Let’s find out by exploring some of the Zune’s strengths and weaknesses.

Continue reading »

Halo 3 is out! How Microsoft's strategy extends beyond gaming

“Halo 3″ is out! How Microsoft’s strategy extends beyond gaming By the time you read this, thousands of happy fans will have already picked up their pre-ordered copies of Halo 3, the most hotly anticipated video game release of the year. No doubt most of them will have started playing too. The third and final installment in the successful Halo franchise, Halo 3 is in a lot of ways more than just another video game. It has become a de facto entertainment brand, complete with books, comics, action figures, and more. Additionally, Halo 3 has become an important marketing vehicle for Microsoft and its partners. In this post we take a look at the relationship between Halo 3 and Microsoft’s overall digital media strategy.

Continue reading »

Windows Media Center — a Microsoft success story?

MicrosoftOn September 3rd, Microsoft will celebrate the five year anniversary of Windows Media Center, arguably one of the company’s more successful products. Windows XP Media Center Edition was released to manufacturers in the United States and Canada in 2002, and Microsoft has followed up with a number of releases since then, most recently as part of Windows Vista. The software is at the core of Microsoft’s digital media strategy and looks to have a bright future ahead. In this post we’ll take a look at what Windows Media Center is, the levels of success it has achieved thus far, and finally we’ll touch on where Microsoft might take the product in the next few years.

Continue reading »

Microsoft Points – what's next for the company's virtual currency?

MicrosoftWhen Microsoft launched the Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox 360, they introduced Microsoft Points to the world. Instead of exchanging money for items in the marketplace directly, you purchase points and redeem those for the content you want. A quick Internet search today for Microsoft Points will return a bunch of results related to the Xbox. That makes sense as the Xbox Live Marketplace and the Zune Marketplace are the only two places you can use the points right now. But will that always be the case? Could Microsoft have bigger things in mind for their points system? Let’s take a look.

Continue reading »

Ford and Microsoft announce pricing for Sync

microsoftFord and Microsoft today announced the pricing information and other details for Ford Sync, an in-car connectivity solution jointly developed by the two companies. Sync could finally signal a home run for Microsoft’s efforts with automotive software, as Ford seems perpared to deploy Sync across its entire product line:

Sync will be standard on Lincoln vehicles and widely available on Ford and Mercury vehicles. In most cases, Sync will be included as standard equipment on high-series models from Ford and Mercury – the Ford Edge Limited or Ford Focus SES, for example. On models where Sync is optional, it will be priced at $395.

Sync is based on Microsoft software, and enables the use of voice commands to control digital media players and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones inside your vehicle. A few weeks ago we featured Microsoft Automotive in our list of the software giant’s digital lifestyle flops, citing a lack of tangible products as the main reason for making the list.

Sync is certainly a tangible product however, with wide deployment by Ford and a relatively consumer friendly price of just $395. Sync could turn out to be the pivotal automotive product that Microsoft has been searching for.

Ford expects to have Sync available on almost all Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury products within two years. The technology will be available on twelve new 2008 model-year vehicles to be launched by the end of the year, including the popular Ford Taurus, the Ford Explorer, and the new Ford Edge.

Amazon in your living room: today and in the future

AmazonThe digital living room market is fiercly competitive and extremely lucrative. On the one hand there are devices like the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, TiVo, and Apple TV, not to mention TVs, DVD players, and countless other bits of hardware. On the other hand there is content; the music, movies, games, and television shows that make the living room the entertainment hub of the typical home. Then of course there is the marketplace that bridges the gap between the two.

When it comes to the digital living room, Microsoft, Sony, Apple, and a handful of others seem to garner the majority of headlines. However, there’s another company that deserves a closer look. Amazon could also become a powerful player in the battle for the digital living room. Yes the company sells furniture, but Amazon also has an impressive list of digital living room-related assets. Let’s look at some of these and how they work together.

Continue reading »

Xbox 360 news from Comic-Con 2007

Xbox 360 HD DVD PlayerTo coincide with the start of Comic-Con 2007 yesterday, Microsoft announced that it will lower the price of the Xbox 360 HD DVD Player to $179 on August 1st, a drop of $20. Additionally, anyone who purchases a player before September 30th will receive five free HD DVD movies. The company also unveiled new exclusive content for the Xbox Live Marketplace:

Xbox LIVE will offer “300” on demand in HD starting Aug. 14, and is working with Warner Bros. at Comic-Con on a Bringing It Home campaign featuring “300” and other Warner Bros. properties. In advance of the street date for the “Heroes: Season 1” HD DVD boxed set, Xbox LIVE members will be able to download for free the show’s pilot episode in high definition for a limited time.

Continue reading »

Five Microsoft "digital lifestyle" flops, and why they failed

Five Microsoft “digital lifestyle” flops, and why they failedWhen it comes to companies, there aren’t many bigger than Microsoft; they have over 75,000 employees in over 100 countries and more than $50 billion in annual revenue. While Microsoft’s product focus is definitely software, they do compete in a number of other markets such as gaming consoles, consumer hardware like mice and keyboards, and media and content such as MSNBC. Less visible is the product experimentation that goes on at Microsoft. You’re more likely to hear about Google employees tinkering with ideas and side projects (thanks to the company’s “twenty percent” time) but the fact is, Microsoft employees are a creative bunch.

You’ve likely heard all about the successful experiments. Not just the “big bets” as Gates likes to call them, or the interesting things that happen at Microsoft Research, but projects that almost never made it to market, like J. Allard’s Xbox. But what about the flops? As our exploration of Microsoft’s Internet TV initiatives proved, the company is certainly not afraid to experiment, taking the good with the bad. And Microsoft has had its fair share of bad. Let’s look now at some of the company’s more interesting “digital lifestyle” flops.

Continue reading »

Microsoft's Internet TV strategy: today and in the future

This is the second article in a two part series exploring Microsoft’s Internet TV strategy.

Microsoft Internet TVIn part one, we looked at the history of Microsoft’s Internet TV initiatives. We now turn our attention to examining what you can do with the company’s products and services today, and we’ll finish with some thoughts on what to expect in the future.

Today, Microsoft’s three main television products are Windows Media Center, Xbox 360, and Mediaroom (formerly Microsoft TV IPTV Edition). Let’s look at each in turn.

Continue reading »