Friday, July 6, 2007

What about Microsoft?

Yesterday, I posted an entry about AT&T's U-verse IPTV service. No discussion that has "AT&T" and "IPTV" in the same sentence can overlook the years of delays associated with AT&T's deployment of the Microsoft TV middleware platform, which uses a combination of Microsoft technologies and requires System-on-Chip (SoC)-based set-top boxes. In fairness, Microsoft has had to deal with significant external dependencies, including the volume availability of SoC chips, availability of development tools from the SoC vendors, and as a result, the set-top boxes themselves. Other dependencies have been the implementation of features by Microsoft and of the platform by third-party integrators.

It's within the realm of conjecture that AT&T could "suspend" U-verse (over copper access) and offer DBS (to copper subscribers, in its place) in the short term. Pursuing such an option would allow AT&T to save face while scrambling to replace both Microsoft and copper access with something else over fiber (AT&T is already running fiber for greenfields). But AT&T has invested a lot of pride and effort into defending both their Microsoft relationship and their Fiber-to-the-Curb/Copper-to-the-home access strategy, so, we'll see.

In any case, all of this is my OPINION, not to be confused with any actual plans afoot at AT&T. But in the meantime, look at Verizon, which just crossed 500K FiOS TV (ie: over -> FI <- ber) subscribers, as AT&T labors away...

Also, Microsoft is hardly alone in the middleware game. According to "Multimedia Research Group Inc (MRG)", the largest IPTV deployments in the world run on Thomson SmartVision TV (formerly from Thales/Grass Valley), Cascade QualiTVision (developed internally by Hong Kong's incumbent, PCCW), MiView TV (developed internally and deployed by Telefonica in Spain and Chile and marketed worldwide by Alcatel-Lucent despite A-L's Microsoft relationship), UTStarcom RollingStream (several >100k in China, plus SoftBank in Japan) and Myrio with two midsized incumbents in Europe, an operator in Thailand, plus over 80 IOCs. Then there are Minerva Networks with over 100 (including a large incumbent) and Orca Interactive with number of mid-sized deployments of their own.

(This information is current as I write this, as I just completed a 350 page report on IPTV middleware for MRG, for which I had in-depth discussions with all of the major platform companies, and obtained details of their deployments, technologies, products and roadmaps; during the first and second quarters of this year).

Meanwhile, Microsoft just re-branded the platform formerly known as the "Microsoft TV IPTV Edition," to "Microsoft Mediaroom". In my own opinion, Microsoft did this for two reasons. First, to make a clean break from past criticism by showing evidence that the platform has progressed (Microsoft did demo some new applications for the platform at NXTcomm in June). Second, because both Comcast and Verizon retreated from their full-on deployments of the Microsoft TV Foundation Edition. Without a "Foundation Edition," why would they need an "IPTV Edition" or any other edition? So let's re-name the platform altogether...

(c) Steven C. Hawley
Contact steve@tvstrategies.com for permission to use

1 comment:

Daniel Briere said...

Hi Steve,

I heard they did mediaroom because their partners wanted something they could brand on their products as being the Microsoft IPTV Inside and so they needed a new brand to do so.