And the membership of the Open IPTV Forum (OIPF) is as notable for which companies aren't involved, as for those that are.
The founding members are:
- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)
- Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)
- Orange (NYSE: FTE)
- Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC)
- Royal Philips Electronics N.V. (NYSE: PHG; Amsterdam: PHI)
- Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC)
- Siemens Communications Group
- Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE)
- Telecom Italia (TIM)
Alcatel-Lucent had not responded to questions about whether it had been approached to join the initiative or whether it believes such a body is needed.
But the presence of two of the pair's most high-profile Tier 1 IPTV customers, AT&T and Telecom Italia, suggests that the AlcaLu-Microsoft approach to IPTV may be one that's under review. (See AT&T to Launch Lightspeed Next Month, TI Develops IPTV With Microsoft, SBC Awards Microsoft $400M IPTV Deal , and Microsoft IPTV: Now That's Italian!.)
In Microsoft's case, this Forum's existence is interesting because Microsoft rivals have long argued that the Microsoft IPTV edition package, which includes middleware, content protection, and VOD capabilities, is proprietary.
Microsoft, however, says it doesn't need to join a club just to show its support for standards. "Microsoft TV supports open standards," a company spokesman wrote in an email to Light Reading on Monday. "We actively participate in several standards bodies associated with IPTV -- including ATIS, DVB, ITU, DLNA, CEA, HGI, TISPAN, W3C, and OASIS -- and are on a path to define open standards related to IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)."
The software giant says its IPTV system is based on "an open and extensible platform built on open standards." It also notes that it has built "partnerships with dozens of the world’s leading technology companies and service providers" and is "committed to continuing to work closely with these organizations to support our customers’ digital TV deployments."
With or without Microsoft, the Open IPTV Forum seems a serious, carrier-backed initiative to include recognized standards in IPTV deployments. On the group's new Website, the members state that for the "past several months, the companies entered into intensive discussions on what was needed to accelerate IPTV standardization and timely expand the market globally. The founding companies came to an agreement on working together on this task. We believe that combining the expertise of key telecom operators, consumer electronics manufacturers and network infrastructure providers will drive this task in the most efficient manner."
The Forum plans to pull together different initiatives and, using IMS and DLNA as its standards foundations, create a framework for global IPTV deployments, but it says other industry standards may be involved.
The founding members say anyone can join, as long as they "share the goals of the Forum and are willing to actively contribute to specification development." However, even the keenest of prospective members will have to wait a while, as "the Forum will initially consist of the nine founding member companies to ensure speed and coherence in achieving a first release. The detailed information regarding additional members will be announced later 2007."
Among the most noteworthy participants is Ericsson. In short order, that company forced its way into the IPTV world through a series of acquisitions, partnerships, and, now, its involvement in the Open IPTV Forum.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading