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The Video Crystal Ball Is Murky

20 Jan, 2008 By: Kyra Kirkwood

Wow! What a difference a Consumer Electronics Show can make. I have to change a few of the grades I gave myself before the CES convention.

I gave myself a ‘C' in predicting a format win for Blu-ray in 2007. Certainly, if I'd waited a few days, I would have seen that Blu-ray picked up a big win from the Warner camp. I think I'll up my grade to a ‘B' now.

On the digital delivery front, I think I'll drop my grade to an ‘A-'. I predicted it would remain more hype than reality, but Netflix and Apple have both made moves to grow that business.

Another thing I learned at the CES show is that Microsoft has a sense of humor about the whole digital delivery thing. At the Microsoft booth, I picked up a mock children's book called Mommy, Why Is There a Server in the House?: Helping Your Child Understand the Stay-at-Home Server.

You have to love a book that starts out, “Do you know what a server is? I bet you do! A server is a funny-looking box. It makes friends with computers!”

The book was a clever way to explain the Windows Home Server, but it also played up the fact that most people are like children when it comes to understanding a home server. It's not exactly on the top of most home improvement wish lists. And when at the same booth you see the Windows Media Center and Microsoft's Xbox 360, which stores some digital media as well, it all seems very confusing — three different ways to manage digital media from one company.

Microsoft is a microcosm of what's going on in the digital delivery arena. There are numerous ways to access video-on-demand. Netflix's set-top box deals and the Apple rental announcement are just two of the most recent. Blockbuster, Amazon, cable companies, mobile phone service providers — you could just about throw a rock at CES and hit a company booth at which they were trying to convince consumers to get entertainment digitally through some device or software. Are we really so deprived of a way to access movies in the home that we need every consumer electronics company under the sun trying to deliver it to us?

My prediction for this year: Content is — and will remain — king in the digital future. How we will all access it is still murky.

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