As I’m not a AT&T U-verse customer, I don’t follow Microsoft’s Mediaroom television platform/experience too closely. EXCEPT when it comes to the Xbox. And I was pretty fired up when possibility of IPTV on the 360 was first announced at CES a few years ago (01/07?). However, on the consumer-front we’ve seen very little movement. During my CES briefing last year, I was told it’d be rolling out on BT (UK) in 2009. An initiative appears that appears to have died. However, here at CES 2010, Microsoft has announced that AT&T will be deploying the Mediaroom module to current or new U-Verse customers this year. And I spent some time looking at the unbranded version of Mediaroom on Xbox at this years CES briefing.
The downloadable app tunes live television and provides access to recorded content from the central unit in a whole-home U-verse household. Think of it as a thin client. For example, when you schedule a recording from the Xbox, the request is actually sent to the primary U-verse unit and the programming would ultimately be saved to that harddrive. I don’t have any hard information on pricing and timing, other than perhaps we’ll see U-verse on Xbox midyear.
In other Mediaroom news, a significant upgrade (dubbed 2.0) has been announced for the platform. There’s tons of elements, including a video-on-demand interface redesign that emphasizes content discovery, but it’s the idea of a cloud-based DVR that interests me the most. Whole-home becomes whole-world. Access your VOD or time shifted recordings at home, from a remote computer/browser (Silverlight), or from a mobile device. Unlike Cablevision’s frequently contested (by the studios) remote storage “network” DVR, subscribers of Mediaroom 2.0 create local copies of recordings in their home. However, when on the go, they’d be granted access to similar copies of their content via the provider’s servers.
Combined with the new Mediaroom integration into Windows Media Center, it had me wondering if someone could take this whole experience over the top (OTT). Meaning, could AT&T offer television services nationwide over any broadband connection? Technically, with the integration of Microsoft’s Smooth Streaming, it can be done. However, it’s anyone’s guess if AT&T would choose to go down this path. As, in addition to a variety of other technical challenges and implications (think cap), there could also be various licensing issues (studios, municipalities) that would have to be overcome.
The one thing that I don’t get and that Microsoft didn’t have a good answer for, is why is the company building up two separate products/interfaces (Mediaroom, Windows Media Center) that are designed to do very similar things? Seems to me they’d conserve resources and possibly produce a better product by merging these groups/initiatives. Similarly, I sure hope we see a Zune media experience on Windows Mobile 7 whenever that’s announced.