Microsoft's upcoming Xbox 360 may transform the technological landscape, a leading columnist believes.

Robert Cringely believes the powerful architecture and home media features of the new device will effectively put Microsoft in competition with its oldest customers - PC manufacturers.

He writes: "Maybe Microsoft feels at a disadvantage to Apple's upcoming movie service. Whatever the reason, there is no going back now: Microsoft is in direct competition with its own customers."

Apple's plans for video

Apple's slowly-unfolding initiatives in movie downloads are also likely to change the picture, he feels. "Remember, the real market is download-and-play, not streaming", he observes.

He predicts an Apple WiFi/AirPort device for wireless in-home video transfers, anticipating that such a device will have a built-in capability to decode video compression formats.

Google creates future media backbone

Google's move to develop Web accelerator technologies will also change the landscape, he believes. He suggests such solutions will require Google to carry an increasing amount of the processor demands of host Internet-connected home computers.

He visualises a scenario in which Google's own computers will drive Java or other processor-intensive functions for a remote user.

He observes: "What I do know is that the Google Web Accelerator effectively turns every user into a thin client, whether they know it or not. Consider the obvious upshots of this. If Google adds power to its part of the Accelerator, you don't have to add power to your end, meaning your old PC can last longer."

Microsoft kicks the dog

Cringely's predictions for this changing landscape sees Microsoft's place in the environment changing. "So Apple takes over video and movies," he writes, "while Yahoo threatens with a low-priced music subscription service and Google threatens to take control of, well, everything.

"And Microsoft? Microsoft kicks the dog."