Q: A few weeks ago when
I first saw your demo, I was a bit dubious for about the
first 3 minutes. My original impression was Microsoft going
off in another direction just because some other company
is successful there. I quickly changed my mind though once
I heard the strategy and the plans for PMC. As someone whoï¿½s
a fan of the iPOD, I saw something that would really scare
me if I was working for Apple. I have my opinions on the
specifics and Iï¿½ll ask you about a few of them shortly,
but could you tell me what Your opinions are on the competitive
advantage you have entering this market?
For Microsoft, PMC is really about completing an end-to-end
experience around digital media. While music is the most
popular and most abundant source of digital media content
today, we decided to focus on building a next generation
device that would allow a user to consume all of their digital
media on the go. Microsoft is making big bets in digital
media not just around music, but also around TV, digital
photos, home movies and online video content. With great
applications and experiences like Media Center, Windows
Media Player, Movie Maker, Digital Image Pro and PhotoStory,
the Windows platform is an extremely rich environment for
digital media creation, management, storage and consumption.
Add all of these digital media platform assets together
and we think it makes sense to build a portable device that
does more than just music.
of a long winded answer but in short our competitive advantage
is our ability to pull together all of these sources of
digital content on the PC with a consistent user experience
and give users an abundance of media to choose from to entertain
themselves while they are on the go.
The only other competing product that I can think of (there
are many little fringe competitors, Iï¿½m not speaking about
them) is the iPOD. While itï¿½s an impressive product with
a loyal following, I donï¿½t see any comparison with PMC.
The iTunes service also helps in making it attractive, but
MS already seems to have itï¿½s own version, and from what
I saw, thereï¿½s really no comparison. Anyway, Iï¿½m I right
in assuming that iPOD and iTunes are your primary competitors
in this market? If not, could you tell me who is?
We like to think that we are creating a new market and are
raising the bar on what people want out of a portable entertainment
device by offering so many different ways to enjoy your
digital media. There are some companies in the portable
a/v space now like Thomson with the Video Lyra and Archos
with their Cinema to Go products. Being able to play back
media on a device with a lot of storage is only one part
of what we offer with PMC. It is the end-to-end experience
of acquiring the content on your PC, delivering it in an
easy and reliable way to your PMC and playing it back with
a great user experience on a portable device that puts PMC
in a different league.
if you look at the embedded linux market, thereï¿½s no one
major competitor really. There is mathematically, but the
largest category of Linux was the culmination of home grown
versions. Well, when 50 different products comprise a category,
itï¿½s hard to say you are competing against it. It seems
to me that the same may be the case with Personal Media.
There are 100 different MP3 players, that do this or that,
thereï¿½s personal DVD players with x or y support, thereï¿½s
the iPOD, thereï¿½s PocketPC and Smartphone etc.
Do you think this market has a similar dynamic? Basically
that the largest current segment is a hodge podge of different
Great question. I think if you look at the portable entertainment
device space as a whole, you end up with a variety of different
products each trying to service a particular focused need.
I donï¿½t think there is one killer product out there yet
that meets all (or even most) of the entertainment needs
for consumers. The iPod is probably the best known product,
but it is focused on music.
than try to pick the winner, I see the following trends
More sources of digital content are coming into the
mainstream. Six years ago hardly anyone knew anything
about MP3, now MP3 is ubiquitous. Look at the growth
in digital cameras over the past few years. Online video
is still a nascent market but all signs point to huge
growth given the uptake in broadband.
Storage technologies are pushing PC class storage capabilities
down to mobile factors. 60GB HDD that are small and
power efficient are now available for use in all kinds
of small devices.
Processing power keeps increasing. My first cellphone
in ï¿½98 was the size of a brick, now my cellphone is
light, thin and has way more functionality (built-in
camera, SD slot, ï¿½)
I add all of these things up I see devices in our future
that will let a user chose how they want to be entertained.
That is the power of PMC, depending on your mood and situation,
you can choose the right form of entertainment to suit you.
If I need to focus on typing up some e-mail, I can setup
my PMC to listen to my favorite music as a background task.
If I am sweating my butt off on the exercise machine at
the gym and want to completely distract my mind, I can watch
the latest episode of Friends. If I want to show my mother
the latest pictures of her granddaughter, I can put the
device in slideshow mode and hand it to her.
real challenge is making the user experience simple enough
so that the user can quickly put the device in the right
entertainment mode w/o getting frustrated. This is the challenge
that we are trying to step up to and deliver on with PMC.
How does PMC fit in with or against the Multimedia functionality
available on PPC or Smartphone? I know I have both such
devices and Iï¿½ve been quite pleased with what they offer,
and Iï¿½ve heard the same sentiment from many others. Thatï¿½s
not going to stop me from buying a PMC, but if someone just
paid a few hundred dollars for a PDA or a Smartphone, they
may not want to spend more money on something that their
PDA can "already do" The flip side Iï¿½ve heard is that "why
would I buy one for a few hundred dollars when I can get
a PDA and have all of its functionality for the same amount
of money? More so with the smartphone? And since both support
memory cards, they have ï¿½even more functionalityï¿½ I personally
know the answer to this but I think this is going to be
a common refrain when PMC comes out, people already use
it in regard to the iPOD. Would you agree that this is at
least the perception to some degree? If so, how does MS
plan on addressing it?
Pocket PCs and Smartphones can be tailored by their users
for other purposes but they are designed around communications
and information first.
Media Centers are all about entertainment. The user interface
is designed for easy access to your media. We didnï¿½t put
anything into the v1 product that isnï¿½t related to enjoyment
of digital media. The content is the killer app for PMC
and we didnï¿½t want anything getting in the way of the user
and access to their content.
products serve different needs and will be marketed around
these needs. We have some work to do on the consumer messaging
side b/c this could be quite confusing, especially since
both products belong to the same brand, Windows Mobile.
Once you use both devices, you immediately get the difference.
is also interesting to note that our PMC consumer research
tells us that people that are looking to purchase a portable
entertainment device arenï¿½t all that interested in personal
information management (PIM) functionality, they just want
to be entertained. Also vice versa, people that are looking
to purchase a communications device like a Smartphone are
much more interested in making phone calls than anything
of that being said, we are a market driven team and if our
consumers tell us that they want Pocket PC functionality
on a Portable Media Center device, there is a strong possibility
we will move in that direction J Also worth
noting that we are working hard to make sure that all of
the new Windows Media Player functionality for transferring
content to the Portable Media Center is available for Pocket
PCs through the Pocket PC Media Player.