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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Last night Microsoft (MSFT) announced it would initiate its own video-sharing service called Soapbox to round out their online offerings to rival the big sites for video like Google, Yahoo, AOL, MySpace, YouTube, and others.

It supposedly works with either Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Mozilla's Firefox Web browsers and accept the major media formats, including Windows Media Player and Apple's QuickTime. Unfortunately when I accessed the site my Mozilla Firefox browser occurred errors and crashed faster than a chimp in a flight simulator.

This comes on the heels the day after Time Warner's AOL announced its developer program for video search.

This also comes one week after the Zune media player announcement and also right after the launch of the Microsoft Live.com. You know the R&D code teams are happy as hell the company does this, because it keeps the Redmond, Washington guys from having to move a few hundred miles south. Or maybe it is just extra work for the crew in Bangalore.

The stock is getting within striking distance of its 52-week highs, although not really because of these initiatives. The company is almost within a quarter of the Windows Vista launch and also close to teh Office 2007 launch, and those are the real driving forces. All of these other initiatives are starting to seem more like noise than news.

During a preview the company said Soapbox videos will be displayed in slightly larger windows than those competing services offer, and users will be able to expand videos to the full screen while they are playing, rather than having to jump back to the beginning and start over. A beta "test" version will initially be available on an invitation-only basis to some Microsoft employees and regular MSN testers, and then rolled outto the public "soon."

Microsoft is considering various options for incorporating advertising, including posting ads directly on pages with videos or hosting advertiser-sponsored contests that seek video contributions from users. In other words, they also don't know what the profit/revenue model will be yet. This is different from the news video site/sharing pact Microsoft has with the Associated Press, but I am still trying to figure out how to not yawn as I read over this. It really does look just like another me-too offering.

What happened to the company that was such a leader? It must be embarrassing for the company to be in such a reactionary mode where no one can remember the last real invention for what would really be 'THE NEXT THING' they had.

Jon C. Ogg
September 19, 2006
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