NAB: Microsoft nears 3 million IPTV users
Using NAB to tout new interactivity functions of Microsoft Mediaroom
LAS VEGAS – From the outset, Microsoft’s approach to IPTV, now called Microsoft Mediaroom, was scoffed at by critics and competitors as too server-intensive. Now it appears Microsoft is getting the last laugh. At NAB 2009,Microsoft announced its global IPTV deployments will soon reach 3 million consumers, more than double the number from NAB 2008 and number one globally, according to Screen Digest. Just as importantly, IPTV service providers and applications developers are introducing interactive features that actually take advantage of all those servers, said Shari Barnett, director, media services for Connected TV at Microsoft.
Microsoft is even beginning to see traction among smaller service providers in North America, many of whom has shied away from Mediaroom as too expensive and complex. “We are talking to a lot of independent telcos in the US,” Barnett said. “They are beginning to see that the TCO [total cost of ownership] makes sense. We are also doing a lot to reduce the number of servers required, to combine functions – we are very aware that is an issue.”
By basing interactive content and features in the network, Microsoft has enabled interactive applications to run independent of the set-top box, which differentiates IPTV interactivity from that offered by Tru2Way, for example, Barnett said. One of the applications Microsoft is showcasing at NAB is an AP Red Carpet application, developed by the Associated Press, that pulls content from the AP Web site into an interactive application on the television that lets viewers watch photos or videos from Hollywood Red Carpet events such as movie premieres. “The application runs in the network, it doesn’t tax the set-top box,” Barnett explained. “The application tells the set-top box how to display the content on the screen. That’s as opposed to Tru2Way where the application downloads onto the set-top box and runs on the set-top box.”
Another interactive application, developed by the BBC for its TopGear show, uses content from the TopGear Web site and from on-demand servers, and allows different levels of interactivity, depending on the viewer choice. Viewers can augment their view of the current show or leave that show entirely to see previously stored content, Barnett said. BBC also developed an interactive menu offering that pops up, based on pushing one remote-control button, and lets viewers choose to see more news, sports or weather content on demand.
Some Microsoft service provider customers are also creating community sites that enable local content to be pulled from community Web sites onto the TV, or working with broadcasters to create interactive content specific to certain shows, Barnett said.
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