Microsoft Pushes Broadband TV Technology into UK

British telephone company BT Group yesterday said it would begin testing Microsoft’s TV Internet Protocol Edition software platform to deliver TV over broadband in the United Kingdom early next year.

BT plans to offer its customers interactive features such as video games, voting, gambling, and online chat services. Commercial service delivery is expected to begin in the summer of 2006.

BT is the latest in a string of telcos worldwide to align with Microsoft in efforts to compete with cable TV operators. Three of the four regional Bells in the United States also recently chose Microsoft’s TV technology.

“BT and Microsoft share a common vision for converged entertainment in the home,” said Gavin Patterson, group managing director of BT Retail. “TV over broadband services will play an important role in BT’s triple-play offering for consumers.”

On-Demand TV

Inside Digital Media senior analyst Phil Leigh told TechNewsWorld that dependence on traditional broadcast television will become a thing of the past thanks to broadband TV technologies.

Deals like this one take us one step closer to the day when consumers will choose to download a program to their hard drive and view individual broadcasts as a matter of convenience.

“It’s happening already,” Leigh said. “TiVo got us started. Ultimately people will think of watching video whenever they want — not just when it’s broadcast. It will be a gradual change, but we’ll wake up one day and remember when we used to wait for shows to be broadcast and think ‘how silly.'”

Microsoft TV’s IPTV Edition software platform is one contender in a competitive market. While the company’s bid to reinvent the TV is gaining momentum, it has also faced some recent setbacks.

Australia’s Telstra said it would not conduct market trials with the software last week. IPTV trials with customers in Switzerland and Australia have been problematic over the past few weeks. Last month, Swisscom said it won’t launch Microsoft’s IPTV service during the second half of this year as planned. And rumors traced to a Chicago trade show claimed Microsoft’s problems with its TV technology could cause SBC to further delay its planned rollout of a complete IPTV system by late 2005 or early 2006.

Brand Not Enough

A spokesperson for Microsoft told TechNewsWorld, however, that the Microsoft TV IPTV Edition is on track to support first commercial IPTV deployments with customers by the end of 2005/early 2006, and that SBC remains on track for trial later this summer.

Separately, Moshe Lichtman, corporate vice president for Microsoft TV, recently told the Associated Press, “Most of those reports were false.” He admitted nevertheless that there have been difficulties tying together a new software platform with a wide array of hardware from a variety of vendors.

Analysts said while the multi-billion-dollar software giant is bound to become a leader in almost any market it enters, Microsoft is not the hands-down champ of broadband TV technologies by a long shot.

“Microsoft is a top contender but it certainly doesn’t have the hegemony with its IP TV software that it has with its Windows operating system,” Leigh said. “There’s more of an open field opportunity for competitors in this arena.”

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