Putting "innovative" and "AOL" in the same sentence may shock some people, but MIT's Tech Review makes a convincing case that with all these new broadcast online video offerings AOL is really the one to watch. While Google may be barking up the wrong tree by focusing on a system reliant on incompatible copy protection, AOL is focusing on the type of video that people have made clear they like: free. At the same time, they've been improving video search through acquisitions -- basically attacking Google on their home turf. That's a bit surprising since many expected Google and AOL to team up on video rather than compete (Time Warner so far has declined to take part in Google's video offering). Of course, AOL's offering isn't perfect. In the past we pointed out that it was a step in the right direction, but still too limited, since it's just streaming (no moving it to a portable device). How hard is it to recognize what most people want and deliver it to them? They don't want limits and they don't want to pay -- but that doesn't mean there isn't an opportunity. AOL is almost there by offering these shows up for free with commercials, but if they made it downloadable and portable they'd be much further ahead than the competition. People are already downloading shows using BitTorrent, so that's what these companies have to compete with. Locking things up and charging for them is offering a worse product. Of course, the response from Google (and others) may be that they don't care so much about traditional broadcast video, and the focus is on providing the platform for others to host and share video. However, so far, it doesn't seem like Google is pushing that aspect of their offering. Perhaps they should, instead of focusing so much attention on a tiny selection of expensive locked-down broadcast content.
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