Microsoft Launches IPTV Initiative

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Microsoft Corp. announced its Internet-protocol-TV initiative Thursday -- on the eve of an International Telecommunication Union meeting next week in Geneva -- calling it an end-to-end, turnkey, video-compression solution for worldwide cable operators and telephone companies.

The core of Microsoft’s strategy is to lobby the world that "Windows Media 9" is a better compression standard than MPEG-2 (Moving Picture Expert Group), and even MPEG-4. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant said international telephone companies can use Windows Media 9 to create end-to-end IP-television services over their high-speed digital-subscriber-line platforms, but added that cable companies would benefit from the efficiencies of IPTV.

"This is next-generation television over existing two-way broadband networks," said Moshe Lichtman, corporate vice president of the Microsoft TV division. "This will enable cable companies to improve and extend digital-TV services and enable telecom operators to enter the pay TV market with a secure and scalable end-to-end IPTV service. It’s is superior to what is out there today."

The core ingredient for Microsoft in its IPTV strategy is Windows Media 9, which the company sent to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers last month for standards approval. It marks the first time Microsoft has sent such an important keystone in its software strategy to a standards body for open sourcing.

"We think it’s the best compression technology out there," Lichtman said. "It has surpassed MPEG-2 by a factor of three," he said, adding that Microsoft feels that it’s even better than MPEG-4 in some respects.

Microsoft has begun wooing hardware makers to integrate its vision into their products, including Harmonic Inc., Tandberg Television, Intel Corp., Pace Micro Technology plc, Juniper Networks Inc. and Thomson Consumer Electronics.

BellCanada has agreed to test the IPTV platform, Microsoft said.

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