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November 2006, Volume 9/ Number 11

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IPTV Q&A with Microsoft�s Ed Graczyk

By Robert Liu

 


With IPTV ramping up and likely to be one of the hottest focal points at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in January, INTERNET TELEPHONY thought it was a good time to sit down with Ed Graczyk, director of marketing and communications for Microsoft TV, to learn more about the software giant�s plans. We began by asking him some �big picture� questions about Microsoft�s overarching strategy behind IPTV:

1. Given the extent of your reach with Windows�, does Microsoft envision the personal computer as the primary engine to power IPTV, or is it the set-top box (STB)?

The entertainment landscape is definitely changing. With the advent of System on a Chip (SOC) devices, electronic devices, such as set-top boxes and even TV, can have the connectivity of the PC. Right now, we are focusing on the SOC STB as the hardware platform for IPTV Edition. However, as our vision evolves and connected entertainment scenarios become a reality, this might change.






2. Who are some of the STB partners that make up the Microsoft TV IPTV Edition ecosystem?

Our goal is to work with the leading providers in every layer of the IPTV ecosystem in order to give service provider customers the flexibility they need. That is why in the set-top box space we are partnering with Cisco (Linksys-KISS and Scientific-Atlanta), Motorola (News - Alert), Philips, Tatung, and Thomson.

3. Is Microsoft�s strategy for IPTV Edition entirely software dependent? Or are there any development efforts with the hardware or embedded partners?

Microsoft TV�s IPTV Edition platform is an end-to-end solution. However, in order to be deployed, IPTV needs an entire ecosystem of partners, from set-top box manufacturers to system on a chip vendors to encoding hardware vendors.

4. According to recent press reports*, marquee customer Verizon (News - Alert) Communications has experienced some technical glitches with Microsoft�s IPTV platform. How has Microsoft addressed that and have other customers, like AT&T, experienced the same?

One of the advantages of Microsoft TV is that it enables service providers to develop their own applications on top of the platform, and that is exactly what Verizon is doing. It�s always been part of the strategy. We�re proud of our progress with Verizon, which has the broadest deployment of pay-TV services of any U.S. RBOC today. The service is being well received by consumers and is now available in approximately 60 markets across seven states since launching in 2005.

AT&T and our other customers are progressing quite well.

� AT&T has been successfully deploying in San Antonio since December 2005 and plans to bring TV services to 15-20 additional markets by the end of 2006.

� T-Online Germany began commercial deployment of IPTV services in August 2006.

� Club Internet (T-Online France) is available today across France.

� You can expect more exciting news to come from our customers over the next several weeks.

5. How does the IPTV set-top box tie into unified communications and connected entertainment?

The connectivity that IPTV enables will make the TV viewing experience much more interactive. The analogy we like to use is that with IPTV, TV stops being just an island in the living room, and instead becomes a key two-way communication device. You will be able, for instance, to watch TV, chat with your friends, or see Caller ID alerts when the phone rings. It is all part of our longterm vision for a unified communication and connected entertainment strategy.

6. How does Microsoft plan to address the wireless/mobility dimension or incorporate IPTV into a quadruple play strategy?

We think that with IPTV, we are well beyond the triple or quadruple play. Instead, IPTV enables connectivity between all communication and entertainment devices and allows service providers to offer unlimited new services. We actually prefer to refer to the current paradigm shift as �the single play.� Regardless of the terminology, however, the mobile dimension is definitely part of this vision for the single play. However, our approach has been to �Start Small, Think Big, Move Fast.� In order to make the single play a reality and enhance it with mobile scenarios, we need to start by delivering better TV today. We are already doing that in the U.S. and EMEA. Once we nail down the basics, we will be able to focus on scenarios that make most sense for our service provider customers and the consumers.

7. Because Microsoft doesn�t work to secure the distribution rights from content providers, is it at a disadvantage compared with service delivery platforms like MobiTV (News - Alert) or iTunes?

We don�t see it as a disadvantage at all. I think you�d find that most service providers prefer to manage their relationship with contact providers directly. However, you should talk with our customers for more details. That said, we are actively engaged in educating content providers on the benefits of IPTV and the unique business models it enables � more niche programming, interactive content, and new ways to monetize existing content assets� IT

*Source: Wall Street Journal, �Verizon Reworks Microsoft Code For Its TV Boxes,� Sept. 14, 2006

Robert Liu is Executive Editor at TMCnet. Previously, he was Executive Editor at Jupitermedia and has also written for CNN, A&E, Dow Jones and Bloomberg. For more articles, please visit Robert Liu�s columnist page at http://www.tmcnet.com/tmcnet/columnists/

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