Microsoft top dog as the fight to control TV becomes a platform war

Joseph O'Halloran ©RapidTVNews | 17-05-2012

Contrary to most people’s expectations within the broadcasting industry, IT giant Microsoft is actually winning the battle for the TV according to a new report by technology analyst Forrester.

The analyst suggests that Microsoft offers TV users a growing content library, a convenient engagement path for millions of existing Xbox 360 owners, and a growing ecosystem of partners and developers.

In its the Fight To Control The TV Becomes A Platform War report, Forrester says that he TV is currently locked into a high stakes battle for the more than 114 million TV households who traditionally have been “under the quiet control” of cable and satellite providers and the broadcast and cable networks that supply them with content.

Yet, argues report author and Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst James McQuivey, 2012 will mark the end of this grip on the market and that it is only a question of who of the key new entrants — Apple, Google, and Microsoft —will grab the largest number of TV households in 2012. Moreover, argues the report, the upstarts will now dominate TV's fragmenting viewers in the years to come, adding that as in the battle for future television supremacy, the company that controls the platform will win the war for the what it calls the “holy grail of media consumption”.

"This year, that comfortable control [of TV] will not only come under siege, it will be forfeit." “Each combatant has a consumer device strategy, to be sure, but it's their platform strategies that will determine the TV winner in the long term,” McQuivey asserted.

“The fight over the TV is really a fight over the next massive consumer platform that is coming up for grabs. Of platforms there are few: Google owns search, Amazon owns digital retail, Facebook owns social, and Apple owns consumer devices. Microsoft owns, well, nothing at the moment, despite its handsome revenue stream from Windows and Office.

That could change soon. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is already the most-watched net-connected TV device in the US and soon the world. With more than 70 million consoles in households worldwide – as many as half of them connected to the Internet depending on the country – Microsoft can rapidly drive new video services into tens of millions of households.”

Indeed the report makes the point that there are 32 million consumer households in the US that watch online video on a TV set, up from 25 million a year ago, and 18.4 million using a game console, the majority using the Xbox 360. This says Forrester totally eclipses other platforms including connected TVs and over-the-top video boxes like Roku or the Apple TV.