Microsoft plans IP-based TV software for broadband

Continuing its push into the emerging broadband television market, Microsoft Corp. plans to show prototype software this weekend for a new system that will allow cable and telecommunication operators to deliver new and existing TV services over broadband Internet connections. The technology will be shown at ITU Telecom World 2003, a conference and exhibition sponsored by the International Telecommunication Union, which opens Saturday in Geneva.

The new software, which Microsoft for now is calling an Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) delivery system, is one of several new developments the U.S. software giant will be promoting at the show, Microsoft said Thursday in a statement.

Bell Canada Ltd. and India's Reliance Infocomm Ltd. have agreed to jointly develop and test new IPTV services together with Microsoft's TV division, according to the statement.

Other companies that have agreed to collaborate with Microsoft in developing the IPTV system include Harmonic Inc., Tandberg Television ASA, Juniper Networks Inc., Intel Corp., Pace Micro Technology PLC and Thomson SA., according to Microsoft.

Planned features of the IPTV system include instant channel changing, multimedia programming guides with integrated video, digital video recording and video on demand (VOD), according to the statement.

The system will integrate the new compression technology of Microsoft's Windows Media 9 Series, which offers three times the compression efficiency of MPEG-2 and twice that of MPEG-4, Microsoft said.

In July, Microsoft announced an agreement with U.S. cable TV heavyweights Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. to conduct field trials of the company's new family of TV set-top box software products, including its TV Interactive Program Guide (IPG), which allows viewers to find shows and customize their viewing.

In June, Comcast announced it would test Microsoft's TV Foundation Edition. This system allows operators, among other things, to create channels that let consumers easily find and make purchases.

Microsoft TV is a family of standards-based client and sever software products and related developer tools that help networks operators create digital TV services, such as VOD and interactive program guides, e-mail, instant messaging and more, according to the statement.

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