Microsoft wants 'screens everywhere'

LAS VEGAS — Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer touted the company's new releases of an array of products to kick off the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

But the most interesting thing Ballmalter talked about for policy buffs was the "screens everywhere" phenomenon. He touted Microsoft's Mediaroom, software it sells to subscription-TV services to provide an interface for their set-top boxes.

The newest version will also run on other devices — Xbox consoles, computers and smartphones — to access the same subscription content consumers have already paid for, all over an Internet connection.

That seems to go hand-in-hand with a new TV Everywhere initiative pushed by the cable industry, which lets pay-TV subscribers access that content on multiple screens. You can watch the cable shows on your laptop, work PC and your mobile device (right now, you're limited to three screens with Comcast).

Ballmer said such a service can be used not only with cable subscriptions, but also with services from AT&T and other video providers.

"You're running a cable service from Cox over a cable card and a service from AT&T over the Internet," he said during the demo.

"It's the same pay-TV service on the PC, on the phone and Xbox 360. All my content, everywhere I expect it to be."

Some public interest groups have criticized the TV Everywhere model as being anti-competitive to free online video services, like Hulu.com

Another interesting angle for folks back in Washington: Ballmer listed cloud computing as one if the three major "evolutions" in technology for 2010. As we've previously reported, Microsoft is making a big push into the federal market with its cloud computing applications.

Photo: A Microsoft employee puts the final touches on the company's massive booth on the show floor. So many screens, so little time.

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