Microsoft’s former head of consumer products, Robbie Bach, often pitched the company’s strategy as “three screens and a cloud,” and sketched out a vision in which the company’s online services and software would work together on computers, TV sets, and mobile devices. The plan was that consumers who added one service or platform would buy into others.
But until recently, it was just an apple-pie-and-goodness talking point, more theoretical than real.
Windows Phone 7 could begin to change that. Microsoft’s already been talking about the built-in Bing search, Xbox Live game service connection, and Zune Marketplace for buying songs (not video, yet).
Today, Microsoft and AT&T announced another piece of the puzzle: the ability to get U-Verse TV on Windows Phone 7 devices from AT&T.
U-Verse is AT&T’s IPTV service, delivering TV and video programming over a private Internet-like network, and it’s based on the Microsoft Mediaroom IPTV platform. The service hasn’t taken the world by storm–there were only 2 million U-Verse customers in the United States at the end of 2009, and it’s not available in a lot of places, including the New York metro region or Seattle. Creating a mobile version of the service could attract users outside of these coverage areas, although the phones will only be able to download selected shows, and only over Wi-Fi, not 3G.
AT&T is offering 30-day free trials of U-Verse Mobile and a Zune Pass–Microsoft’s subscription-based all-you-can-listen music service–through something called the AT&T Entertainment Pack.
Bundling is the right strategy, as $30 per month (the expected cost for both services) is easier to swallow when buried in a $100 cell phone bill than when billed separately. Then again, a lot of customers ignore these free trials, dismissing them as the kind of crapware that’s been shipping with PCs for years.