Microsoft Preps 'Milwaukee' IPTV Upgrade
LONDON -- IPTV World Forum -- Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) plans to launch an extension to its Mediaroom IPTV system as early as August this year, and has dubbed the upcoming enhancement "Milwaukee."
Access to the Microsoft Mediaroom Milwaukee Alpha 2 Program Website is still restricted, but, according to Shari Barnett, director of Media Services at Microsoft's TV Division, the software giant plans to make the beta version of the application developers' kit available in May, so that third-party firms can start developing services to run on the software.
Barnett expects to see new applications coming to market in 2009.
The key enhancements the Milwaukee update will add to the current version of Microsoft's Mediaroom system are: the ability to pull in existing data feeds, including real-time updates, from Websites to run concurrently on-screen with video streams; and the ability to build sophisticated recommendation and personalization tools.
A demonstration of the streamed TV/Website data fusion was on display here at Microsoft's stand, using feeds and relevant background data from Nascar's Website, alongside and/or overlaid with video footage of a Nascar race.
The capabilities are certainly exciting Mediaroom user BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA). In a presentation here at the London event, Marc Watson, commercial director of BT Vision -- the carrier's hybrid TV/video-over-broadband service that had 150,000 customers at the end of February -- said Milwaukee would underpin BT's next video services push. (See BT Adds to Its IPTV Options and Soccer Kickstarts BT's IPTV Growth.)
"Microsoft's Milwaukee will give us enormous flexibility in providing recommendation tools and enhanced presentation formats... [including] dedicated advertising and information such as sports scores in the same screen as the content you're watching," stated Watson.
He says BT has already added an HTML-based browser tool to its BT Vision set-top boxes, which allows customers to customize and create their own channels of content based on what's available. The Milwaukee upgrade will enable BT to deliver enhanced functionality that will make on-demand video more "engaging... It can be a cold experience."
Watson said BT Vision's subscriber base growth is accelerating and the carrier has a target of "hundreds of thousands" of TV/video customers by the beginning of April, which would mean adding 50,000 new customers, or one third of its current customer base, in just one month.
BT also plans to add high-definition services this year and make a version of the BBC's iPlayer TV programming service available to its customers in the coming months as it battles with the likes of Sky (NYSE, London: SKY) and Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) in the U.K. digital pay TV services market.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading
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