On.. Microsoft, catching up and how far they will go

Microsoft has always been seen as a company that tends to follow ideas, from the days of MS-DOS onwards they have been seen as a company that copies things for their own purpose.  They are good at identifying what will be of value to them as a company and either develop it themselves or purchase a company already doing it, for example hotmail.

So now they are moving into online video, which seems to be a little bit late in the game with Google and YouTube already very established platforms.  Is this because of their size?  Are they now too large to be able to react to the very agile world of online.  In fact do they even need to be doing this?

For Microsoft as a company to be developing something there really needs to be a profit in it, they need to believe that either they can muscle their way into the market, possibly with a loss leader ala Xbox, or that they can do it significantly better or significantly larger than other providers, eg Hotmail (pre Gmail).  So what are they up to with Soapbox?  Some people are looking at how Microsoft might moneytise Soapbox as it is initially launching without adverts.  My thought is that there is going to be some kind of slick integration with desktop products.  Youtube isn’t in the business of supplying software, whereas Microsoft is, so if they can get MSN Messenger integrated with Soapbox they will be one step ahead.

Viewing someone’s videos from their messenger profile would be a nice touch.  I wonder if they have some kind of Zune/Marketplace/Soapbox interface planned, all those little viral videos you get on YouTube are suddenly transportable around the place on Zune.  It is possible that Soapbox will just be used to push people to MSN Video, it neatly solves the issue of people putting commercial video on YouTube, Microsoft can move that to MSN Video or at least use it as a stick so encourage companies to provide content for MSN Video thus improving the quality of its moneytised service.

Maybe it is a cynical metoo move, but the question is can they make a success of it?  How far will they go to make a success of it?  If they want a piece of the market they are willing to under cut and make loses to establish themselves, we’ve seen that with Microsoft.  They are facing competition on all sides right now and Vista is going to be a difficult launch for them.  I wouldn’t want to encounter a desperate Microsoft though, they still have a great deal of muscle.

It seems that the Microsoft beast is lurching about in new directions, who will get crushed whilst it does remains to be seen, weather it will make a success of these new directions is also a multi-billion dollar question.  Personally I think it will find a way to make a success of Soapbox., weather it leverages it as a YouTube killer or just another tool for MSN users to share information with each other is the only question mark I have.

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