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Microsoft Mediaroom Brand is Shortsighted

Microsoft Corp. announced the availability of "Microsoft Mediaroom," the latest brand name for their Internet Protocol television (IPTV) software platform, featuring several new multimedia capabilities, including in-home personal music and photo sharing, dynamic MultiView (multiple picture-in-picture) capabilities, Multimedia Application Environment for development of interactive services and advanced applications, and digital terrestrial television (DTT) support.

However, soon after the announcement, Microsoft was already downplaying the name-change. Telephony magazine published the following executive comments. "We don't know where or how or if it will be used at all," said Christine Heckart, general manager of worldwide marketing for Microsoft TV. "There is no compulsion from us to our users on this," Heckart said. "Our attitude is, use it if it helps you gain subscribers -- don't if it doesn't."

They also introduced the Microsoft Mediaroom Application Development (MMAD) toolkit, which provides service providers and third-party developers with tools to create revenue-generating TV-based applications that run on the IPTV platform.

With this latest release, Microsoft says it's renaming its IPTV platform as Microsoft Mediaroom to better reflect the broader set of new connected entertainment experiences made possible today and "the types of experiences anticipated in the future." In addition, the Microsoft Mediaroom name and identity are designed to be used by service providers as an ingredient brand to create a powerful competitive differentiator to support their consumer marketing activities.

That said, I'm confused by the choice of a brand name that already has meaning in a consumer's mind -- a media room is a place in a home (i.e. home theater). So, if anticipated content shifting and mobility becomes an essential ingredient of Microsoft's IPTV platform, then does the re-branding actually create confusing limitations in the long-term? Given Ms. Heckart's comments, it may very well be a moot point, but I'm still left wondering about the implications.

"Microsoft is committed to providing our IPTV customers with the very best software platform so they can take full advantage of their intelligent, two-way IP networks, and begin deploying richer and more personalized TV and connected entertainment experiences," said Enrique Rodriguez, corporate vice president of the Microsoft TV business at Microsoft. "With personal media sharing and new application development capabilities, Microsoft Mediaroom brings the consumer television experience to a new level, enabling the best in TV, plus access to all your media in one place."

I suppose that Microsoft could extend the notion of the brand later on to "Mediaroom Unplugged" -- or perhaps they could adopt a symbol in the future, just like the performer Prince, and during the interim refer to the product as the "IPTV platform previously known as Mediaroom." But seriously, based upon the market results thus far, the telco employees who have been involved in Microsoft's IPTV deployments would just like the platform to be know for its scalability and reliability.

More than 18 of the world's telecom service providers have already taken the leap-of-faith by selecting the Microsoft IPTV platform for their digital TV offerings, and commercial deployments are currently underway with 10 providers. The Microsoft Mediaroom platform will be on display at NXTcomm, the new industry venue taking place June 19-21, 2007, at Chicago's McCormick Place.

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