If Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) ever come to physical blows, there's a good chance that the video of it will find its way online.
Microsoft is rolling out a beefed-up video-streaming engine for Bing, initially offering vetted clips, music videos, and television shows.
Don't bother scouring the site for an "upload" button. This isn't a video-sharing site in the YouTube mold. It's an aggregator site, pulling in clips from Hulu, Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) ABC, and -- yes -- even Google's YouTube.
However, it's slick and there's at least one cool feature that YouTube sorely lacks. Have you ever clicked on a YouTube video based on an intriguing description or provocative thumbnail, only to be tricked with an entirely different video? Well, there's no Rickrolling on Bing Video. A "hover preview" feature begins streaming the thumbnail clip, with audio, simply by rolling your mouse over the box.
YouTube has nothing to worry about, of course. It's still the undisputed top dog, drawing more than 100 million unique visitors a month in this country alone. However, whenever Microsoft, Google, or Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) takes even a baby step in the direction of a rival, it bears watching.
Microsoft has had its challenges in the past in becoming a video hub. MSN Video and Soapbox never quite got it right. However, repositioning its video streams under the Bing brand may breathe new life into the platform -- just as Bing was able to inject style points and traffic into what was previously ho-hum search through Microsoft.
Do we need another video aggregator? Probably not. Are most Web users perfectly fine with a single site? Sure. Is the lack of user uploads going to be a community killer? Maybe, but folks are still able to post comments at the end of clips.
At the very least, the video makeover will help promote Microsoft's Silverlight platform. Adobe's (Nasdaq: ADBE ) Flash is the popular format on most video-sharing sites, so Mr. Softy has a lot of catching up to do.
Then again, since it's probably another two to three months before YouTube copies the "hover preview" function, maybe it's Google that has some catching up to do.