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February 28, 2007

AT&T resumes Microsoft IPTV rollout

Posted by David Hunter at 8:48 PM ET.

Back in January, it was reported that AT&T had suspended it’s IPTV program until some problems with Microsoft software were resolved. Now the partners say everything is back on track:

AT&T Inc.’s push into cable TV is ramping back up after a pause prompted by glitches that the company says have been resolved with key network software upgrades.

Over the past two weeks, AT&T resumed direct mailings and distribution of promotional “door hangers” for the new U-verse television service, the first marketing activities since those efforts were suspended starting in October.

To provide such robust capabilities over the plain copper phone wires connected to most homes, AT&T is using relatively unproven technology known as IPTV, short for Internet Protocol TV. That approach has enabled AT&T to spend only a fraction of the $23 billion Verizon Communications Inc. is investing to rewire half its local phone network with fiber-optic lines all the way to each home.

But because the software, provided largely by Microsoft Corp., has never been deployed on such a large scale, assorted glitches have forced AT&T to repeatedly delay and scale back the service rollout even though the required network upgrade remains on pace.

“We have had our fits and starts, but right now we feel we’re in a pretty good place,” John Stankey, AT&T’s group president for operations support, said in an interview. The deployment of the latest software for the system was completed in early February, he said, stressing that the upgrade addressed many “small annoyances” rather than any one big problem.

The systems are now operating smoothly enough that, “We’re ready to play the game and put numbers on the board,” he said.

Microsoft, which has encountered multiple bumps in its early dominance of the IPTV software market, is “very pleased with the progress we’ve made with AT&T on its software platform” to enable the wider-scale rollout, said spokesman Jim Brady. “These challenges are absolutely behind us.”

The renewed marketing efforts also include a new tactic: door-to-door sales calls, with agents deployed in every neighborhood, began earlier this month.

Sort of like the Avon lady, I guess, only selling Microsoft TV. In any case, the current scorecard reveals that there are:

roughly 7,000 U-verse subscribers, up from 3,000 at the close of 2006, even though AT&T’s network was U-verse-ready in areas with 2.2 million homes at year’s end. By contrast, Verizon had signed up 217,000 homes for FiOS TV by the end of last year, and cable companies lured away hundreds of thousands of AT&T’s phone customers during 2006.

They’re clearly playing catch up. Many more details by following the link.

Filed under AT&T, Coopetition, IPTV, Microsoft, Microsoft TV, Service Providers, Technologies

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Microsoft reorganizes Windows marketing

Posted by David Hunter at 1:08 PM ET.

Windows Vista has shipped, Jim Allchin has retired, and Windows marketing is still laughable. Sounds like a perfect time for Kevin Johnson, now the sole president of Microsoft’s Platform and Services Group, to rearrange the Windows marketing organization and that’s just what was announced yesterday as Johnson’s long time associate Bill Veghte was brought in to run a new Windows Business Group reporting to Johnson:

Mike Sievert, who had been heading product marketing and product management, will now focus solely on the marketing side, while Mike Nash will take over product management. Sievert, who joined Microsoft from AT&T Wireless in 2005, and Nash, who headed Microsoft’s security business unit until a recent sabbatical, will both report to Veghte. Brad Goldberg, who has been general manager of product management for Windows, is shifting to another unspecified role outside of the Windows unit but within Kevin Johnson’s Platform and Services Division.

Also reporting to Veghte are Will Poole, who is heading Windows’ market expansion efforts for emerging markets and new types of PCs, and Joe Peterson, who is leading the unit charged with online distribution and the Windows Genuine advantage antipiracy effort.

Could an organization be more fraught with peril? Emerging markets means cranky third world countries and goofy form factors like the Origami, while online distribution and antipiracy are currently major sore spots. Well, at least the marketing group only has to credibly spend $500 million to market Vista, a product that already sells itself. Of course, that’s proving tough too.

Filed under Executives, General Business, Kevin Johnson, Marketing, Microsoft

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Ray Ozzie does Wall Street

Posted by David Hunter at 11:39 AM ET.

Yesterday, Ray Ozzie answered questions for the analyst and investor community at a Goldman Sachs conference in Las Vegas and the good news is that he didn’t tank the stock price (always a risk when Microsoft execs talk to analysts these days) although other market news lowered everyone’s boat quite nicely. The bad news is that Ozzie didn’t really have all that much to say. I listened to the webcast and and my only takeaways were:

Not exactly uplifting stuff. What was conspicuously not forthcoming from Microsoft’s Chief Architect was any real vision of Microsoft’s future or even of just the nascent ad-supported online services initiative that he fathered. There’s nothing wrong with playing your cards close to your chest, but undoubtedly investors would have a warmer feeling if they had been tossed some hints that everything was on track. MSFTextrememakeover summarizes:

If this was meant to be MSFT’s Software+Service strategy equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount, it fell short – and that was despite [perpetually wrong on MSFT] analyst Rick Sherlund’s repeated attempts to throw Ray a slow pitch in hopes he would knock one out of the park. He didn’t. It’s not that I can fault anything Ray said per se, it was all reasonable enough. It’s just that he didn’t say much that was concrete wrt plans or timeframes and it all sounded pretty conceptual at this stage…

Plus, comments like GOOG giving MSFT a “wake up call” … is hardly stock Viagra, especially when folks look at the fact that GOOG actually makes money on this “continuous investment” effort whereas MSFT doesn’t – at least so far.

The net is that while Ozzie survived his trip into the lions’ den, it wasn’t a bravura performance for himself or Microsoft, and did nothing to dispel the nagging doubts about Windows Live and the other new “Live” initiatives.

Filed under Advertising, Coopetition, Executives, Financial, General Business, Google, Investor Relations, Microsoft, Online Services, Ray Ozzie, Windows Live

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Microsoft releases March Orcas CTP

Posted by David Hunter at 10:08 AM ET.

Microsoft’s David Boschmans reveals that the March Community Technology Preview of the upcoming Orcas release of Visual Studio is now available from the Microsoft Download Center. The download overview has a list of what’s new in the March CTP, but the major highlights to my mind are:

Since these were the anticipated big ticket items, it looks like Orcas is really coming together but no specific date has yet been set for its release. For a nice overview of Orcas, see Scott Guthrie’s recent presentation.

Filed under Beta and CTP, Cider, Expression Web, LINQ, Microsoft, Technologies, Tools, Visual Studio 2008

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