Monday, April 25, 2005

IPTV Keynote: Microsoft's Benchmarks for IPTV

Hopes for Telco TV go back some time, observed Phil Corman, Director of Microsoft TV, and as the US West trial in 1994 demonstrated, the results have been disappointing. So why now? For telcos, it is becoming a matter of simple survival, said Corman, and compared to earlier efforts, this time the technology is ready.

An important starting point, said Corman, is to consider what IPTV is not. "IPTV is not video streaming over the Internet, watching TV on your PC or merely a best-efforts video service. It has to be based on a proven business model." Corman believes a key to the new paradigm will be the Electronic Program Guide that allows users to navigate the service. IPTV holds an advantage in this regard because its picture-in-picture capability is software-based and does not require separate tuners in the TV set. Picture-in-picture is important because an IPTV EPG might present the view with a menu of perhaps six PIP windows of shows now underway. The viewer has a more powerful to search and browse video content. This type of integrated navigation could also be used to access content from PVR, a network PVR, or a VOD library.

One of the benchmarks for enabling IPTV is the establishment of a viable ecosystem of technology suppliers and content providers. Microsoft's recently announced strategic partnership with Alcatel is aimed at achieving this goal, explained Corman.

Microsoft's other IPTV partners include Tandberg and Harmonic for video headend. At the client side, Microsoft is looking for mass-market IP set-boxes at price points below $100. Here partners include Thomson, Samsung, Sigma Designs, ST and Intel.

Corman said Microsoft currently has about a dozen customers for its IPTV service, including the recent high-profile wins at BellSouth, SBC and Verizon.

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