TV revolutions

Here we go. The Bill is merging PCs and TVs. Again (remember webTV?). And according to his Davos-speech, it will take just about five years to revolutionize the tube.

Of course, Mr. Bill is right. “I’m stunned how people aren’t seeing that with TV, in five years from now, people will laugh at what we’ve had,” he told business leaders and politicians at the World Economic Forum. Yes. What we‘ve had. Let’s not forget. Microsoft is the leading supplier of IPTV backend software for the leading telcos of the world. So it’s very much likely, that in five years, with Windows Vista being slowly replaced by its successor, Microsofts TV foundation will finally deliver on its promises.

Currently, IPTV isn’t any different from any other broadcasted multichannel tv. Same content, same linear delivery. That’s going to change. Slowly. Because for building huge proprietary interactive applications, you’ll need a huge audience. For building small proprietary interactive applications for micro audiences, you’ll need a huge incentive.

That’s where the blur starts. Huge IPTV deployments currently means a quarter million subcribers. That’s a lot if you have to start from scratch. But essentially equals the online population of Memphis, TN. And if you want to revolutionize a mass medium reaching billions of people all over the world, fueled by a global content industry, revolutionizing Memphis will be an important first step out of several gazillions.

That’s why The Bill is making a switch. To quote Reuters: The rise of high-speed Internet and the popularity of video sites like Google Inc.’s YouTube has already led to a worldwide decline in the number hours spent by young people in front of a TV set. Uhm. Interesting math. But Douglas A. McIntyre is making another point here: Using YouTube is actually a poor example of what is likely to happen. Making money from teenagers lip syncing music or farting in the tub is not likely to supplant content like the Superbowl. Unless, of course, Mr. Gates has odd tastes.

Broadband TV à la YouTube and IPTV à la Gates aren’t twins, separated after birth. It’s two completely different business models. Merging them will happen as soon as Microsoft publishes its software under a GNU license.
Let’s get back to the revolution. “Certain things like elections or the Olympics really point out how TV is terrible. You have to wait for the guy to talk about the thing you care about or you miss the event and want to go back and see it,” explains the software tycoon. “Internet presentation of these things is vastly superior.”

Yes, tv is (sometimes) terrible. An commented on demand features of live events would definitely be a very nice thing to have. But let’s put it like that. TV content is software, too. PC software and tv software a.k.a. broadcasting content are both increasing return businesses. Both are businesses because of the underlying intellectual property rights. But the major difference is: Windows XP has a life cycle of half a decade, at least. Events like the Olympics are good for month and a half. So a real Microsoft TV would be the only available channel, broadcasting a single event for a couple of years in a row, with monthly updates, thank you.

OK, unfair. Microsoft is in the enabling business. With Office being the premier User Generated Content-production suite. “Because TV is moving into being delivered over the Internet — and some of the big phone companies are building up the infrastructure for that — you’re going to have that experience all together,” sez Bill. Nope (No, he doesn’t have to care, as he’s delivering some building blocks for this infrastructure). But just because SAP data and YouTube-vids are delivered via IP, you will not be able to tune into TheWallStreetJournal.tv.

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