Microsoft Goes Back to the Future Vs. Google, Apple

Today, Microsoft and Viacom announced a content deal that is reminiscent of some mid- to late-1990s deals for Internet Explorer and MSN. But instead of AOL or Netscape being in Microsoft’s sights, it’s Apple and Google.

Valued at $500 million, the arrangement includes the availability of Viacom content to Microsoft and Viacom using Microsoft’s Atlas ad technologies. Microsoft acquired Atlas with its $6 billion purchase of aQuantive.

The deal is strange, though. Several Viacom properties, such as MTV, are already big consumers of Microsoft technologies. From that perspective, the deal kind of makes sense. But Microsoft also put some stress on the Viacom relationship by last year’s Zune launch.

Microsoft and MTV had announced collaboration for Urge, which was supposed to be the flagship music store for Windows Media Player 11, and Vista. But before either product shipped, Microsoft changed the focus of its music strategies to Zune and the Zune Marketplace, which sidelined any meaningful collaboration on Urge. In August, MTV entered into a partnership with RealNetworks for the music store Rhapsody America, laying to rest the somewhat mummified Urge.

So in some respects, Microsoft and Viacom already have a contentious relationship. If these two companies are huggy-kissy, one is turning its face away because of bad breath.

Next page: Microsoft Joins the ‘Real World’

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