I’m really amazed by how much involved Microsoft is with the Olympics this year. I’m a real fan of the Olympics, and it’s cool to see the depth of coverage Microsoft is doing for the Olympics. Here’s some spots where I’ve seen this happen:
1. NBC Olympics (Silverlight player) – NBC is using Silverlight to stream it’s 2200 hours of live video feeds. Live feeds for every sport. Make sure to try the enhanced player though. It really makes the Silverlight technology shine. I did get a little stutter as I transitioned across different videos, but these are live streaming. Overall, the quality is fine (not too spectacular) and it works great. Hope they do this next year. Though maybe they could include a live chatroom overlay as you’re watching live streams.
2. MSN Homepage – MSN has added an Olympic ribbon bar near the top of the page. It displays the latest headlines, quick links, streaming news bulletins, and photo and video highlights. All done in Silverlight (though not for Safari). There’s no option to turn it off though.
3. Live Search – Microsoft has also improved Live Search’s Instant Answers to respond to Olympic-related search queries. For instance, search for a country’s Olympic medal count:
Or an athlete:
Olympic 2008 News vertical:
And even an Olympic vertical within xRank:
xRank is pretty sloppy though. I mean, who’s "BARBARA"? Look at the news links next to the picture (I think those headlines refer to Barbara Bush, not this athlete). And did you notice #9? Brad Pitt is in the 2008 Summer Olympics? That’s just nuts.
UPDATE : Someone named Niceshoes has nicely mentioned that the Live Search team fixed it. That’s good to hear, I thought I was going crazy or something. Here’s a better image:
Also, the Live Maps team didn’t prepare for the Olympics at all. The aerial imagery of Beijing is fair at most. NO birds-eye-view (though I think this is because China won’t allow it). And simple searches for ‘Olympic Green’, ‘Beijing National Aquatics Center’, or even ‘National Olympic Stadium’ pull up zilch. I got this:
Maps are a very important thing, especially when you’re in a foreign country. I can’t believe Live Maps has no clue what the Olympic venues are. Live.com (for China) did get a cool photo background of the Birds Nest (a.k.a. National Olympic Stadium). Though it’s not as high resolution as the ones we’ve seen so far. It would have been great if they could have customized Live.com for every international market with a special splash of the nation’s Olympic team showing the team or cool highlights and stuff. Just a though. They could update the image every few days as the Olympics go on.
4. Windows Media Center (Vista) : NBC Olympics on the Go – There is a free download service called NBC Olympics on the Go. According to Microsoft, "You can watch your selected events in up to HD quality, even when offline, and you can pause, rewind, or fast-forward the video." You just start up Windows Media Center, go the Online Media menu, and just find and select the NBC Olympics graphic button, and download. Simple as that.
What you’ll get
An easy-to-use service that lets you watch your favorite Olympic sports
200+ hours of catch-up TV programming over the 17 days of the Olympics
Coverage of approximately 24 sports, the full opening ceremony, and a closing ceremony montage
Up to HD quality video
5. Xbox : An Olympic game and wrap-up videos for $1.99 each – There’s a video game called Beijing 2008 that’s available for the Xbox 360 system, from Sega. According to Softpedia, "Xbox owners will be able to access what Microsoft referred to as NBC wrap-up content, which will come with a price tag of $1.99". It’ll probably come later.
6. Zune : Post-game content and game footage for around $0.99-$1.99 – A collection of highlights, full events, extra footage, and more. I’m not sure if this is the same exact content as the ones on Xbox 360 Live Marketplace. Which is exactly why Microsoft needs to combine both Marketplaces together. According to Zune Insider,
"Zune. On Aug. 8, Zune Marketplace will kick off a series of daily 2008 Olympic Games videos from NBC Sports, giving viewers special on-the-go access to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. For approximately 99 cents–$1.99 per episode (with post-Games content TBD), footage will include memorable highlights from the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, “best of” compilations, “best match” replays and a post-Games wrap-up feature. Users will be able to download each episode onto their Zune device for viewing whenever and wherever they go."
There could be more, for all I know, but that pretty much sums up all the important points where Microsoft is putting Olympic coverage on their service and products. I really love the Olympics (Winter and Summer), and it’s cool to see how Microsoft has managed to put so much Olympic content on so many services/products. Most likely because of that partnership with NBC Universal. I really can’t wait to see how digital the Winter Olympics will be.