Full Article Attached Independent Project Status Reports

Tuesday May 15th, 2001

This week's report features updates from K-Meleon, DocZilla, the Links Panel, and the new Link Element Toolbar. Enjoy!

#110 Re: A Media Player and not a Browser Deal

by AlexBishop <>

Sunday May 27th, 2001 6:01 PM

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I think Microsoft wanting Windows Media Player to be the de facto standard means a lot more to them than just protecting the Windows monopoly. If Windows Media becomes the standard format they can make a killing from selling encoding and server software. They can also use Windows Media Player's Media Guide to control access to music giving them huge power. And then there's digital music distribution. If Windows Media is the standard for that then Microsoft could potentially demand a cut from every music sale. Sure, Philips has the same power with CDs today but do they also rent software (.Net), provide online content (MSN), make interactive TV stuff (UltimateTV) and manufacture games consoles (Xbox)? Microsoft could (but hopefully not).

It's harder for Microsoft to get dominance is streaming media because proprietary formats are involved. More people have RealPlayer, so content providers encode in RealMedia format, so then more people install RealPlayer... it's a positive feedback loop. By making sure Windows Media Player is on all Windows PCs, Microsoft can undermine this and convince content providers to encode in Windows Media instead. It's like the browser wars all over again but with potentially more at stake. RealNetworks' current attitude (in public at least) is "We don't care, we've got an 85% market share." You could have said the same thing about Netscape circa 1996.

Considering all this, AOL Time Warner should really be backing anyone but Microsoft. RealNetworks looks like the best bet because a) they're the current market leader and b) they're small enough to be purchased outright if the need arises. AOL Time Warner have that MusicNet deal with RealNetworks, EMI and Bertlesmann, so it would seem logical for AOL to continue supporting Real. (Universal and Sony, on the other hand, have a deal with Yahoo! called Duet - note the lack of Microsoft here.)