Microsoft TV, Apple iCloud both miss the mark on video, but there is hope

editor's corner

Jim O'Neill

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) both were on tap to make big announcements yesterday. Microsoft was rumored to be ready to roll out a virtual cable offering at the E3 confab, complete with new content offerings, voice control and perhaps even a road map for a big OTT play. Apple, meanwhile, announced it was planning to reveal its cloud offering (with the very predictable moniker "iCloud)" at its Worldwide Developer's Conference, and there were plenty of rumors flying that it would include a streaming video component, perhaps even a competitor to Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), and, at the very least deliver an expanded role for videos in iTunes.

Both companies delivered. Both also missed the bull's-eye.

Microsoft TV has a long-range goal

Microsoft TV is, well, kind of a mixed bag. The announcement included some features that are very cool, but it lacks substance... at least for now.

The big news, a feature that you can expect to see other CE manufacturers scrambling to catch up to, is the ability to use Bing and voice search on an Xbox to locate content on Xbox Live, whether its video clips, movies, TV shows, whatever.

Microsoft also announced a deal with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which gives it access to YouTube video through the gaming platform, as well as a deal with UFC to make that programming available on a PPV basis.

With 55 million Xbox units sold and 35 million Xbox Live subscribers, it's a pretty good win for YouTube and UFC, and from an entertainment standpoint, it helps catch the Xbox up to other boxes, like Roku, that already have access to that content; it now has millions of pieces of content instead of the thousands it had previously, said Microsoft Vice President Marc Whitten.

What is doesn't do is scare pay-TV operators, because, the company contends, it's looking to partner with, rather than compete with them, in the same manner they partner with Sky in the U.K. Long term, Microsoft says it wants more content available, including news, premium entertainment and live sports. For the moment, that's a pipe dream, but the company said it will announce content partners between now and a roll out in autumn.

Apple's iCloud video tease

Apple's iCloud was rumored to be bringing with it a major video component, perhaps even the ability to sync content between devices.

It doesn't quite deliver seamless video access, but it also doesn't miss the mark by much. The iCloud doesn't stream video from iTunes, as it does with movies, but it does allow users to sync video content. The process may be a drag because users will have to upload and download files in full between devices and iCloud.

But Giles Cottle, a senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, waved off that concern, and gave Apple kudos for their nascent video-everywhere achievement.

"The ability to easily watch video content on any device is something the world's operators and CE manufacturers have been trying to master for years, and Apple appears to have beaten them to it," he said.

Nonetheless, file iCloud along with Microsoft TV in the "needs more work" queue. The difference? I think we'll see more from Apple sooner than later.--Jim

P.S. Happy World IPv6 Day Eve. Check out Samantha Bookman's feature, Six faces of IPv6, here.