Microsoft filed an International Trade Commission complaint against Tivo in an attempt to stop that company from importing set-top boxes on January 24. Just another day in Microsoft-litigation land? Or is there something bigger going on here?
I think the answer is the latter. And it's connected to Microsoft Mediaroom, the company's IPTV platform.
Microsoft licenses Mediaroom to TV and video service providers -- like AT&T, CenturyLink, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone-- so they can provide entertainment services and apps for TVs, PCs and mobile devices. To date, in spite of years of work and investment, Mediaroom sales have been modest (to say the most). Last year, Microsoft made the Mediaroom team (along with Zune Services and Media Center TV units) part of its Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB) division.
Microsoft just launched its Mediaroom 2.0 offering at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month a year ago. promising more and better experiences across different screens. As I noted last week, Microsoft working on a Mediaroom for Windows Phone client, that is said to be codenamed "Rome." Since I published that information last week, I've gotten a couple of more Mediaroom tips.
There's also a Silverlight for Mediaroom project -- codenamed "Taos," in the works, my tipsters said. ("Santa Fe" might be the codename for an associated set-top box, one of my sources said.) And there's even some kind of tie-up between Mediaroom and Media Center coming. That project is codenamed "Monaco," my sources are saying.
(This does not seem to be the same codename "Monaco" I heard about years ago. That Microsoft Monaco was said to be a competitor to Apple's GarageBand product. I don't think it ever materialized in any form.)
What to make of all these Mediaroom codenames? Here's my admittedly scattered attempt to try to piece things together:
We already know that Microsoft is working to port Silverlight to Xbox. We also know that Microsoft announced last year that it was working on a Silverlight port to system-on-a-chip (SOC), which would enable Silverlight to run onTVs, set-top boxes, Blu-ray players and more.
(The Silverlight SOC project doesn't seem to have disappeared. When I asked for a status update last week, I was sent the following statement, attributable to Brian Goldfarb, Director of the Developer Platform Group: "The Silverlight team is still actively working with a variety of key partners on SOCs and we have no new information to share at this time.")
We also know that some Microsoft partners are building set-top boxes running Windows Embedded Standard 7, which Microsoft released to manufacturing last year. Silverlight support is built into Windows Embedded Standard 7, as is Media Center support.
Does all of this add up to "Microsoft TV" -- a la Google TV or Apple TV? (Or is running Xbox as an IPTV set-top box Microsoft's answer to its competitors?)
Here's an intriguing hint that there might be more to come from a recent Microsoft "help wanted" post:
"Internet TV is taking over the traditional TV steadily. One of the Microsoft mission goals is to provide a TV solution. Consumer media device (CMD) is one of the exciting products we are currently working on and we are looking for strong SDET to come in and help us deliver this product. The project vision is 'Windows Embedded Powers TV worldwide' and our mission is to provide both broadcast & internet content to meet future demands of consumer media devices."
Given all these set-top/IPTV-related projects, it's not hard to see why Microsoft is guarding its patents on program time guides, TV program scheduling system, preview system, and program delivery technology. IPTV is going to become a bigger component of Microsoft's entertainment line-up in the coming year, I'd say, with tighter tie-ins to a number of its other products and technologies, including Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, Silverlight and more.
Anyone out there have any additional insights as to what's coming with Mediaroom and how it fits with other Microsoft products and initiatives out there? Educated guesses welcome!