Mary Jo Foley writes,
Microsoft is putting most of its digital-home marketing muscle behind Windows Media Center. But not all of it.As the battle continues over what type of device will be the hub of the digital home of the future, neither Microsoft nor its competitors is betting on just one horse. Excerpts with edits:
Device, software and content players are continuing to bet on multiple combinations of products and services, and are waiting for more definitive user cues before building the convergence solutions of the future.The idea that there's no clear home-hub winner yet came across loud and clear during a panel on the emerging standards and platforms for the digital home during the annual Harvard Business School Cyberposium conference here this past weekend."Convergence is happening, but we don't know what will win," said Joe Belfiore, general manager with Microsoft's Windows eHome division. Belfiore said Microsoft is testing the convergence waters with offerings from a variety of groups, including its Microsoft TV, Xbox, MSN and Windows divisions. Belfiore said the ideas that the remote control becomes the new universal input device, and content gets distributed to every room in the home are the commonalities shared across all of these units. But whether a PC running Windows Media Center, an Xbox or a set-top box becomes the central hub has yet to be decided, he acknowledged.
Mark Hanson, vice president and general manager for Sony VAIO, said,the ultimate goal is to enable anytime, anywhere access for consumers, no matter what type of device they are using as their central reference points. He noted that Sony is in the midst of reorganizing the entire company "to be able to better focus on end-to-end solutions." He said the new Sony will be focused on encouraging different product groups to "work across and down." The content representatives on the panel — The Walt Disney Co. and RealNetworks — both emphasized that technology and content vendors have little definitive information on how users want to consume their digital entertainment. "We're working to understand usage models," said Adam Selipsky, vice president of consumer and web marketing for RealNetworks. Part of this involves understanding what users have come to expect and assume to be free. "Usage models with music are the easiest to do today. We're much closer with those than with movies," added Peter Lee, vice president, new business development with Disney. "The next big push will be television."
Microsoft is looking to demonstrate to consumers "what valuable scenarios will be" in order to help seed the market, Belfiore said. He said Microsoft's Media Center technology is an example "of an attempt to jump-start things" by providing users with a choice of which type of device they want to make their central digital-home hub. The bottom line: "The digital home is passé. Now it's about digital life,".