CES Ballmer Keynote: The Significance of MS TV Moves

We’re finally done with opening day for the public here at CES and lots of IPTV and Over The Top (OTT) stuff happening at the show.  Last night Microsoft as usual kicked things off with the first big keynote of the event.  Steve Ballmer led the way with some help from some Windows and Microsoft Media folks to talk up what Microsoft accomplished in the last year and where they are going.

Overall the keynote was not as solid as it could have been and of course people, myself included, really wanted to see some live demos of Project Natal.  What seems to have been missed by most people, partly due to the flow of the presentation and partly b/c people are not too familiar with all the changes that are going on with the various TV platforms.

MS showed off and talked about a few key aspects around their TV strategy which they have been working on for a very long time, longer then most are aware of.  Microsoft continues to attack the living room on several fronts and will be positioning themselves very well going into 2011.

The first bit of TV news was that Windows Media Center is now able to access web content in a manner that integrates completely into the user experience.  They demoed this by showing a ‘CBS.com app’ for WMC that was created using the Windows Media Center Markup Language to essentially created the skinned version of CBS.com.  This is in direct competition to all the other Over The Top players in the market including Boxee.  Being able to write little XML apps/widgets to get OTT content from the web makes the barrier to entry very low and of course Windows has a huge install base so as more and more consumers upgrade to Windows 7 and run the latest and greatest of WMC it becomes quite a compelling audience to reach which is why CBS and PBS.

image Next was the demo of watching live TV on your PC using CableCard and being able to simultaneously record 4 shows at a time.  This brings the PC experience up to par with the experience consumers get from telcos running Microsoft’s Mediaroom solution such at AT&T’s U-Verse product.  By itself it is very powerful but combined with the next news its a VERY big deal.

Mediaroom integration is finally coming to not only the desktop but also mobile devices this year on AT&T and other players around the world such as BT and SingTel.  This is a huge play for telcos as it provides them with a plug and play three screen solution to allow them compete with the cable folks as they work on kicking their any-content, any-screen, any-time strategy into high gear.  Along with Mediaroom on the PC, XBox integration is supposedly also coming.
With a massive PC and XBox audience and growing telco TV audience, as well as their Zune marketplace strategy Microsoft is making it very easy for content producers and distributors to plug into their ecosystem and reach consumers in new ways.  It appears that after years of hard work and lots of talk MS is ready to solidfy their future TV platform in 2010.

We have been going around the show checking out the other OTT and connected tv solutions and will do a roundup report as the event winds down.