preparing for when the walls come tumbling down
links for 2008-03-25

next steps: Windows Media (Player and DRM)

Wmp11Windows Media Player is a mess.  It's slow, doesn't natively bundle a robust codec support base and ties into a less-than-popular DRM scheme.  It looks like a dieing product.  But I believe that Microsoft may be sitting on an untapped goldmine.

Over the past couple years Microsoft has continued to invest in their desktop media player and DRM (beyond the media suite coupled with Vista).  Microsoft has fully revamped the UI and redesigned overall experience, delivering a far better looking player. But the success of their player is going to hinder on the value it delivers, not the wrapper it presents.  A shiny nickel will always be worth less than a crumpled dollar bill.

But there is hope for Microsoft in this world.  Microsoft has one thing that Apple, iTunes and the popular VLC Media Player don't have - advertising.  Wow, that sounded evil.  Let me explain.

Microsoft has:

  • an incredibly powerful network of users and strong desktop penetration,
  • a robust network of content owners (they are a Hulu syndication partner)
  • and their key differentiation: advertisers. 

When properly and strategically leveraged, Microsoft is in the unique position to offer ad-supported downloadable video.  I'm not talking about NBC Direct's poor excuse for ad supported downloadable video.  I'm talking about a seamless experience.  I'm talking about leapfrogging iTunes in their own field.

Microsoft is the best suited company to deliver this eventual reality.

Microsoft's desktop player should become everything that Joost could have been, had Joost had access to first-run mainstream network content.  Microsoft should be providing downloadable, portable (to Windows DRM capable devices) premium ad supported content. 

This would give the Windows Media offering an amazingly unique value prop, one that nobody else could deliver.  Google, AOL and Yahoo! don't have the desktop penetrations that Microsoft has.  Apple doesn't have the advertiser relationships.  And users don't have a free and legal way to gain access to portable content.

Everyone wins.