In a news story written by News.com's John Borland, Gartner analyst Michael King has what could so far be the understatement of the year. In reference to Verizon Wireless' decision to use Microsoft's Windows Media technology as part of the foundation of its new cell phone streaming video service, King said: "It's one in a bucket of many small victories...they haven't penetrated far, in part because the carriers themselves are a little nervous around Microsoft. But they are going to be in the space."
In a column that I wrote earlier this month, I opined that the media client could be the key to the next technology monoculture. Microsoft's Windows Media Player, for example, already has a leg up on competing technologies because of the distribution channel afforded to it by the company's Windows operating system (an advantage, by the way, that the European Union recognized and then neutralized).
Already, each of the major cellcos in the U.S. offer phones that include Microsoft's cell phone operating system. That by itself hasn't dramatically changed the outlook for Microsoft's technologies, since so few of those smart phones are actually in end users' hands. But, if you ask me, given that there are many more cell phones than there are computers, for Microsoft to have scored a major U.S. cellco at the service level (the name for Verizon's streaming media service is "VCast") for its media platform is a coup of untold proportions. This is because, if you're a multimedia content author, you want your content to reach the biggest possible target with the least amount of work. As more content authors drift toward one media platform (the way software developers drifted toward Windows), the demand for that platform goes up and that platform becomes a self-perpetuating ecosystem with untold advantages over its competitors. Granted, Verizon is just one victory and there's still time for other platforms from Apple and Real to make headway, especially Apple with the other channels it's pursuing for its multimedia platform. But Microsoft's deal with Verizon is not to be underestimated.