Microsoft Seeks Patent For Remote Control Based Pricing

  • March 23, 2012
  • Tech
  • Comments Off on Microsoft Seeks Patent For Remote Control Based Pricing

Microsoft Seeks Patent For Remote Control Based Pricing

Microsoft, just like all large tech companies out there, regularly file patents for new ideas or concepts. One recent patent however was noticed by several people. The patent is titled “Control-based Content Pricing” and deals with how a remote control allows users to select various settings and preferences when they are watching TV, or doing something on their entertainment devices. By knowing what these preferences are, a content provider could then set prices that would vary as a consequence.

For example, many TVs and cable boxes now have remote controls that feature an ad skipping function. What if this function was visible to the content providers, and the price of the movie or TV show you rent would vary? If you choose not to skip the ads, you could get the current price, but if you decide to use that function, then the price would go up, because the advertisers wouldn’t be seen by you. It’s a fairly ingenious technique, but like for any other patent, the question is whether or not it’s been thought about before. The movie industry is always looking for new ways to monetize content, and these types of remote control functions infuriate them. It’s very likely that they’ve wanted to implement such a variable pricing model before, but the problem is a technical one. There’s no way for the cable networks or other content providers to know what functions you use on your remote. It would require new technology that isn’t deployed yet. So while a lot of people immediately jump on the ad-skipping function as a frightening thought, we don’t have much to worry about just yet.

However, Microsoft may have different reasons to file such a patent. Let’s not forget that they own the Xbox, which is a brand that the company has been trying hard to morph from a game console to an entertainment system. This device allows people to play games, watch movies, TV shows on Netflix, and more. Right now, settings are stored locally, but it’s no secret that the Xbox has a deep connection with Xbox Live. There’s also rumors that Microsoft is working on the next version of the Xbox, known as the Xbox 720, and it’s not inconceivable that they could implement something like that. Do you want to skip ads in your TV show? That’ll be $0.99 extra. Do you want to play a game that has in-game advertising turned off? Again that’s some more money. Right now it’s possible to do this type of variable pricing up front, but not while the content is being consumed. Can you imagine a game that has a billboard with an in-game ad, and the remote controller could sense whether or not you turn your virtual character to look at it?

Of course, right now it’s all speculation. Microsoft says that it routinely files for patents for things they end up not using in any Microsoft product, and that’s true. Still, it’s also true that companies want to nickle and dime as much as possible, and this could become part of some future monetization plan.

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