Microsoft seems to be acting downright conciliatory these days, and for good reason: As 2005 comes to a close, the company finds itself in the rare position of playing catch-up in many hot businesses, especially behind Apple Computer in digital music. So it makes sense that Microsoft made peace with RealNetworks, courted America Online and, today, partnered with MTV to build a new music service.
Lest anyone think that Microsoft has become a sheep in wolf's clothing, however, this latest move deserves some attention. Although the company's exact role remains unclear, it says the MTV service will be "integrated" in the Windows Media Player. The word "integration" has a long history for Microsoft, dating back to the days when it was accused of absorbing various technologies and services into its operating system and Web browser to create a monopoly.
The question is whether the company, perhaps out of desperation, will again rely on its old tactics of leveraging Windows and Internet Explorer real estate for marketing blitzes for the MTV service or whatever else comes along. Given the evolving way that music is distributed and consumed, Microsoft's properties won't have nearly the kind of influence it had with previous technologies. But it will be interesting to see how it tries--and how closely antitrust regulators will be watching, both in the United States and abroad.
Blog community response:
"So the $64,000 question is...will Microsoft and MTV offer a way to make this content
iPod compatible? Or are they counting on Microsoft's technical ingenuity combined with MTV's nearly overpowering lifestyle brand to try and take a bite out of Apple's marketshare? The press release hints at innovations beyond the current standards for digital music subscription services. What do MTV and Microsoft have up their sleeves?"
--Syd Schwartz--Digital Music Den
"I'm sure it will be the market leader in the also-ran (not
iTunes) segment of the digital music download business with its integration into Media Player. The execs at Napster, Yahoo, etc. are probably pulling out their hair out right now."
--80 dash 89 dot com
"What makes Urge more likely to succeed than other music services competing against the iTunes juggernaut? MTV is planning a Disney-like approach to promotion, driving music sales on the service from programming on MTV, VH1 and CMT."