By Rachel Chalmers Microsoft Corp has persuaded 35 partners to join its effort to kick-start consumer adoption of broadband technology. Announced at the Digital Hollywood conference on Los Angeles, the Jumpstart initiative identifies digital media as the killer app best placed to lure customers to broadband – the first hit that get them hooked to […]
By Rachel Chalmers
Microsoft Corp has persuaded 35 partners to join its effort to kick-start consumer adoption of broadband technology. Announced at the Digital Hollywood conference on Los Angeles, the Jumpstart initiative identifies digital media as the killer app best placed to lure customers to broadband – the first hit that get them hooked to costly cable habits. Streaming broadcast-quality content will be to broadband as color was to the television, a company source told ComputerWire. The initiative is designed to solve the chicken-and-the-egg problem by bringing internet content providers and consumers together. It’s not that companies aren’t providing content yet; it’s that consumers have to be made to want it. Anthony Bay, general manager for Microsoft’s Streaming Media division, went further still. He claims the initiative will play a key role in doubling consumer broadband adoption within the coming year. Given the lackluster rates of adoption of broadband initiatives to date, he’ll be lucky.
Microsoft’s technology partners in Jumpstart are a who’s who of the evolving broadband markets – proof if proof were needed that supply outstrips demand. They include Akamai, iBeam, Intervu and Sandpiper among the content delivery networks, InfoLibria, Inktomi and NetApp representing the caching vendors, Rhythms NetConnections, NorthPoint, Covad, Jato and FirstWorld of the DSL providers and the new-age cable companies RoadRunner and High Speed Access Corp. On the content side, there’s alwaysif.com, BootlegTV.com, Digital Entertainment Network, Entertainment Boulevard, foreignTV.com, Intertainer, IFilm.net, KKRS.net, Launch Media, MSNBC, Music Choice, Pseudo Programs, Raveworld.net, RioPort.com, Tunes.com, sputnik7.com, ValueVision Interactive/SnapTV.com, Virginmega.com, the World Wide Wrestling Federation and WWW.com. Engage Technologies is the sole ad company.
To take just one example of the kinds of deals struck, Sandpiper has promised to integrate Windows Media Technologies into its content delivery network, in return for which, Microsoft’s Streaming Media Division will purchase services from Sandpiper. Sandpiper’s architecture distributes streaming content across multiple network nodes, making it much easier for individual servers to handle requests during periods of peak demand. This is all very nice for Sandpiper, but the new partners’ warm glow is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the deal is more or less identical to one struck earlier this week between Microsoft and Sandpiper’s deadly rival Akamai. Presumably, Microsoft will be buying services from both, to the ultimate benefit of neither.
This might lead observers to conclude that Microsoft is not so much singling out these 35 players as partners in the brave new broadband world, as ensuring that its own technology is seeded across the necessary network infrastructure. What real or perceived threat could prompt Microsoft to create such an alliance where consumer demand is so faint, it actually has to be forced? One answer is that the Redmond software giant seriously miscalculated the importance of the internet in the early nineties. That created a vacuum which in turn enabled the growth of Microsoft’s chief rival for consumer hearts and minds: America Online Inc. Recent squabbles over instant messaging interoperability were indications of the tension that is brewing between these two, but the real battle will be fought in the broadband arena. And this time, Microsoft cannot afford to be left behind.