Microsoft Kicks Off Video Downloads, Plans ID Manager

Microsoft made two major advances this week including the launch of its MSN Video Downloads service and announcing plans to offer a new ID system designed to give users more control over personal information.

Microsoft said MSN Video Downloads will provide daily television programming, including video content from MSNBC.com, Food Network, FOX Sports and IFILM Corp., for download to Windows Mobile-based devices such as Portable Media Centers and select smartphones and Pocket PCs.

“With content from some of the most recognized brands in entertainment, MSN Video Downloads helps bring this vision to life, allowing people to take their favorite television shows with them whether they are on the train, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or keeping the kids occupied in the back seat of the car,” said John Pollard, director of Windows Mobile Applications and Services Marketing at Microsoft.

Proving the Market

Since the launch of the Microsoft Windows Mobile-based Portable Media Center last fall, more than 20 new content partners, including CinemaNow, MLB.com, MSNBC.com, MSN Music, MTV Networks Music, Napster, SnapStream Media and TiVo, have agreed to make video available online specifically formatted for Windows Mobile-based multimedia devices.

IDC Associate Research Analyst Josh Martin told TechNewsWorld that readily available digital video content remains a key driver for the portable multimedia player market. In order to convince consumers to buy the product, he said, it’s important to have quality content.

“It’s almost been like a Catch-22,” Martin said. “You can’t really get premium content until you prove there’s a market for it and you can’t really prove there’s a market until you have the premium content to offer. So this is a good first step.”

A one-year premium membership to the MSN Video Downloads service with access to all available videos is US$19.95. In addition, people can access a limited amount of free content without a paid membership.

Security Play

Additionally, the software giant said it plans to build software for managing identities into Windows to give users a more secure experience. Dubbed “Info Cards,” the technology gives users more control over their personal information while shopping and accessing services online.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports receiving over 635,000 consumer fraud and identity theft complaints in 2004, with consumer losses totaling more than $547 million. Nearly 40 percent of those complaints were about identity theft, with credit card fraud being the most common category, according to the FTC.

IDC’s Martin said one of the biggest concerns for both the consumer and the content owners has always the ability to protect user identity and content protection, respectively. Microsoft’s new play will help the consumer side of the equation, but the content providers may still have some concerns.

“One of the reasons content owners haven’t signed up to have their content distributed digitally is because they are afraid it could be distributed illegally,” Martin said. “That’s probably been the biggest barrier so far and is what has caused the Catch-22.”

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