The other night, Microsoft invited a bunch of Canadian reporters out to dinner. There's a reason they wanted us to show up, and it wasn't our charming social skills.
Microsoft wanted to talk Olympics. Indeed, the dinner featured a representative from CTV, who likely flew down to Las Vegas just for this get together. He wore Vancouver 2010 cuff-links. Seriously.
By now everyone in Canada knows that CTV and its media siblings (including the newspaper I work for) have bet big on the Vancouver games. But Microsoft is also trying to put its stamp on the Winter Olympics. Namely, the software company wants to use it as a coming out party for Silverlight, its multimedia, graphics and interactivity web app. Granted, Silverlight has been around for almost three years, but it's not nearly as well known as the most famous name in that field, Adobe's Flash.
The Microsoft-CTV pitch essentially boils down to letting web users watch any part of the games at any time. The two companies hope that users will use built-in tools to tell their friends what they're watching and in doing so help generate more buzz, but basically they want to sell these games as an event where the web viewing experience won't lag behind the TV experience.
Whether they'll succeed or not is a different story. CTV is interested in getting as many eyeballs glued to the games as possible, but for Microsoft, the end-goal is to get the word out about Silverlight. A big part of Microsoft's larger pitch at CES is the idea of the fully connected home. You've probably heard this before: control your movies from the computer in your basement streaming to the TV in your kitchen using the universal remote in your toilet, and so on. They've tried this before with media PCs and the like, and now they're giving it another go. At his keynote the other day, Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer talked a lot about TV on the PC, with demos of HD streaming and on-demand video and a whole bunch of other bells and whistles. Silverlight is a pretty key part of all this. Given the beating Microsoft has taken on the mobile front (iPhone, Android) and - with the exception of the Zune HD, which actually got good reviews - the music wars, PC-based home entertainment is a consumer sector they may have an easier time controlling.
Besides Microsoft, I haven't seen too many other mentions of the Vancouver games at CES. NBC has a booth that's loudly branded with the games' logo, but I have yet to visit. I expect them to make the same pitch CTV did, though, since they're also using Silverlight on their portal.