Thoughts about Microsoft’s strategy outside the US

August 5th, 2010

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People who know me, know I follow Microsoft releases pretty closely and I take it upon myself to learn now features and test them out. I most of the time like new features and try to promote them to my friend. Sometimes however I get frustrated about the fact that particular feature is not available in my country (Belgium).

In fact most of the features that are not available in my country are not available anywhere in Europe (except maybe the UK) or anywhere else on this planet. Microsoft website’s promote stuff like ‘Zune Subscription Pass’ , ‘Internet TV’ or ‘Netflix Instant Watch’ but non of these are available outside the US.

For some stuff like Netflix one could understand because Netflix itself is not available outside the US, one can only hope that ones Netflix get’s the licenses to offer there content abroad, Microsoft will be quick to jump the boat and release this stuff to there European costumers. This would be the same for Hulu.

Media Center

For other features it is not so obvious. Like the Internet Tv  option in Windows Media Center or the Integrated Guide for that matter. Internet TV is an option to stream videos content provider and TV stations offer on there site to your TV and giving you an easy to navigate interface from your couch.  Again some of them are restricted to only be able to be watched in the US. But other Video’s like News , Sports , TED-video’s ,  YouTube or Vimeo. Internet TV also gives access Zune video library witch IS available in Europe, but not via Media Center. The below video gives you a glimpse of what is possible with Internet TV in the US.

The main problem might be Microsoft does not have a “European Developer Centre” , meaning a building in Europe where people are developing shipping products. They have there research centre in Cambridge UK and every country has a sales manager and a business manager making sure products sell and get promoted via Events , Student Deals , Marketing. But in non of those countries there is somebody writing code and making deals to integrate a local service with Microsoft products. I know it’s a lot of investment but I think it is worth it.

They also made big deal about the new colour coded TV guide, the channel logo’s and movie library in Windows Media Center. Engadget recently reviewed Media Center and I encourage you to take a look at there experience.

It’s nothing like we have here in Belgium. To compare:

  • The TV Guide does not show channel logo’s
  • The TV Guide is not colour coded to indicate program genre
  • No HD indications on channels/programs
  • Movies from the guide are not show in the ‘Movies’ section of Media Center

    Besides making content available that should be available there is so much more that can be done. Belgium’s public broadcasting agency makes a lot of content available freely on the web or via the local digital cable company. Why not make that available? Commercial broadcasters also provide a lot of added content online. Talk to them and hear if they are interested. I’m sure they will be if you tell them how many people own an Xbox and they would all get it, and you show them the success of Sky in the UK.

Other Services

Enough about Media Center, there are other products that suffer the same fait. Like the Zune service. The desktop Zune software is available for free download but is crippled by design. I use it to subscribe to podcasts and if you click the Engadget podcast subscribe link you will be presented with the following screen allowing you to subscribe to the podcast. All good right ?


Not so much, because you need the Zune software already. If you go to see all the podcast and subscribe to them you get:


Why would podcasts not be available worldwide to listen to? I really hope with the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 and integrated Zune support all of there restriction will be lifted and Zune will be fully available internationally.


Microsoft needs better integration with local European , Australian services and not only focus on the American market. I suggest setting up a developer campus in Europe with people from these countries to make sure the experience is what they would like at home. There is so much room for innovation and so much potential it seems like a shame not to use it.


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