IPTV Delivering Microsoft TV-Enabled Set Tops And The Future

    September 9, 2005

Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) just might be the wave of the future. Microsoft looks to be banking on it too as they announced further support for the IPTV software platform at the International Broadcasters Convention, IBC2005 in Amsterdam.

The new set box top offerings include a new class of system-on-chip (SOC) that will give users low-cost, HD set-top boxes and they say a growing choice of these Microsoft TV-IPTV enables devices will allow broadband service providers to work things according their own situations.

They’ve included some big players for their hardware partners too, including Linksys-Kiss, Motorola, Scientific-Atlanta, Tatung, and Thomson. All of these companies are working on the development of these sets and just like with PCs, Microsoft will be there with the software to get it done. Thomson and Intel are working together on their new system and it’s already shipping. It will support the lots of video codecs including MPEG2, Windows Media Video 9, and MPEG4 AVC. Intel’s inside with a 1.4 GHz Intel 854 platform . It comes with optional hard disks for both streaming and DVD applications.

“We’ve seen tremendous progress across the entire IPTV ecosystem in the past several months, and today’s announcements illustrate the increasing momentum,” said Moshe Lichtman, corporate vice president of the Microsoft TV Division. “The pace of innovation in IPTV is impressive, and it is particularly exciting to see all this coming together in time for the first commercial deployments of the Microsoft IPTV Edition platform by leading operators worldwide.”

To further stimulate the market for other IPTV-enabled set-top boxes and consumer electronics devices, Microsoft TV is working with semiconductor suppliers to introduce a class of SOC products. The first partner to bring such a product to market is Sigma Designs Inc., which has developed an SOC capable of delivering multiple channels of HD video. Available now, this chip significantly lowers the cost of manufacturing IPTV-ready receivers. This makes it easier for network operators to reach volume deployments with HD-capable devices, helping to differentiate their services from existing cable and satellite offerings.

The SOC can also be embedded inside a range of consumer electronic devices to enable consumers to choose from a variety of IPTV-ready receivers such as TV sets, set-top boxes, digital video disc players and gaming consoles. These offerings create more “on ramps” to the connected digital home, enabling great stand-alone IPTV experiences that are ultimately “better together” when connected to other compatible devices and services.

British Telecom, Swisscom AG and SBC all though this is was a good deal and will help in support their IPTV strategies.

There’s been much speculation in recent weeks about where different companies are going. Microsoft currently has a lot of pans in the fire but there is a method to their madness. They are pursuing an obvious vision here. While the Xbox competes with other game consoles, it’s real mission is tied to the information above. While MSN competes with other search and portal services, their main mission is here. Microsoft is looking toward the future.

They’re seeing a future of connected households with digital content, using their products to get their. The Xbox 360 will be one of those products. They will all have HD content and high def DVD players, perhaps a Toshiba one. Pretty much all these companies make receivers of some type of the cable television world.

It stands to reason Microsoft would be working with them to perfect the ultimate in-home entertainment experience for the future. They know how to do the hardware part better than most. It stands to reason the largest software manufacturer in the world has a great system to put into their hardware. They are looking to be build on a device for people’s entertainment purposes. Something family and friends can unite around, something “convivial,” as Gates put it a couple of months ago. And it’s all in one unit.

The folks can interface through the MSN network, get their news, shows, sports, MMORPGs, shopping and everything else for their online experience. Microsoft started experimenting with WebTV several years ago. It wasn’t bad. This will be so much better. It had many limitations on it. Many of those will now be lifted as the new system is integrated. Italy has been had a version of Microsoft’s vision in place for a few weeks now. It’s only a matter of time before it begins to appear elsewhere, including the U.S.

Where this will leave other search engines, one can only wonder but there’s certainly a vision here and it’s brought to you via the keen eyes of Gates and Ballmer.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.