Microsoft is building a version of the massively popular Windows Live Messenger software to run with your home TV and DVD player. A patent filed last year suggests that Microsoft wants its program to monitor your viewing habits so that your friends can see what you've been watching.
The January 2006 patent reads: "Various embodiments utilise a real-time instant messaging or presence based communications system as a mechanism to remotely control the operation, programming, and/or review of media content on a device or system such as a television, media center, gaming device, digital video recorder and the like.
"In addition, the use of the instant messaging or presence based communication system opens up various social networking options for users. For example, users can, if allowed, gain access to the viewing habits of individuals in their contact list and exchange information with one another to provide a rich, robust sharing environment."
It seems like a massive task for Microsoft to build this kind of utility into its Messenger system. After all, the number of different types of TVs, DVD players and digital boxes around means that a universal system would be extraordinarily hard to implement.
However, it would be relatively simple to monitor what's being viewed on home PCs, streamed to and from Xbox 360 consoles and downloaded via video-on-demand streams. The instant messaging program already detects what music you're listening to on your PC and displays it to your friends.
You can read the full patent at the US Patent and Trademark Office website.