LiveStation: Microsoft's New Live TV Initiative

Microsoft LiveStation
is kind of a Joost-meets-Orb except that it’s live TV (unlike Joost) only and it requires broadcasters to participate (unlike Orb). The guy in the video refers to LiveStation as “Slingbox without the box.” Sort of, but Slingbox doesn’t require broadcaster participation. He’s dead on about the box, though. Slingbox does have a box, LiveStation does not.

LiveStation’s got a real purtty mouth — programmed using Microsoft’s new Silverlight technology and looking to replicate the real-life experience of flipping through your TV channels. I think that this could be a great service, in theory, if they can talk all the major broadcasters into signing on.

That’s going to be a pretty spicy meatball, though. I’ll be floored if they can get sticklers like Major League Baseball, the NFL, and dinosaurs like NBC to play along. The more progressive hipsters like the NHL and, to some extent, ABC and CBS might be easier to woo. Microsoft does have friends in some pretty high places so maybe they’ll be able to pull it off after all.

If this LiveStation project does come to fruition, guess who’s really going to throw a hissy fit? That’s right, your local cable company (and probably DirecTV). I’ve been wanting to bid adieu to shelling out $100/month for TV for quite some time, but there’s been no viable alternative that works well enough to replace TV.

If I could get most of the same channels that I get through Comcast via LiveStation or a similar service, you’d see me pushing Comcast out the door to endure the walk of shame home wearing my least favorite sweatshirt. You can keep the sweatshirt Comcast. I don’t want it back. Not if it means talking to you ever again.

Of course, the holy grail of TV would be a mixture of Slingbox, Joost, Orb, and LiveStation. Ubiquitous access from any computer or TV set, DVR functionality, and free or low-cost access. I think that Joost will ultimately come closest but the Slingboxes, Orbs, and LiveStations of the world will still fill that need for up-to-the-minute news and live sports. It hasn’t been said that LiveStation won’t offer PVR and time-shifting functionality down the road. If they do, they could have a real winner here.

UPDATE: Apparently, this is not a Microsoft project. London-based Skinkers is developing the service independent of Microsoft after purchasing the rights to a Microsoft Research project. Sorry for the confusion.

Microsoft LiveStation: Slingbox Without the Box [TechCrunch]