IPTV Roundup: What's With NSN?
Guessing game at Nokia Siemens
Just what is Nokia Networks going to do with its IPTV strategy? It seems CEO Simon Beresford-Wylie has some ideas, but he's not ready to share them just yet.
Prior to last year's nuptials with Nokia, Siemens Communications fancied itself as a bit of a mover and shaker in the telco TV world: It got off to a half-decent start, buying middleware player Myrio and bagging a couple of European incumbent deals in Belgium and the Netherlands. (See Siemens Snaps Up Myrio, Siemens Touts Dutch IPTV, and Belgacom Extends NSN Contract.)
But since the Nokia and Siemens networks teams became one, the market has largely been dominated by sometime pals Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Microsoft, with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) also playing its part. (See Microsoft Preps 'Milwaukee' IPTV Upgrade, Microsoft Adds VOD, IPTV Extras, Du Picks ALU for IPTV, Microsoft Seals $500M IPTV Deal, Alcatel-Lucent Updates on IPTV, Cisco Digs Denmark's DiviTech, Cisco Debuts IP Hubs for the Home, Cisco Targets Asia's IPTV, and Cisco Passes the IPTV Test.)
And now Ericsson, one of NSN's fiercest rivals, is making a name for itself in the IPTV sector thanks to an extensive shopping spree and a major market positioning initiative. (See Ericsson Demos 10-Gig GPON, Ericsson Shows Off IPTV, Ericsson: Tandberg Is Key to IPTV, IPTV Drives Ericsson to Redback, and Thomson, Ericsson Bag IPTV Deals.)
So when we met Beresford-Wylie recently, we took a photo of him (see below) and asked: "What's the deal with IPTV?" If Nokia Siemens is only going to invest its R&D dollars in markets where it can be a market leader, where does that leave its telco TV plans? (See Nokia Siemens Gets Ruthless on R&D Focus.)
"Applications are key. If we don't have the number one or number two [market position] or we can't make money, then... We have customers and revenues, and we are focused on where we put our R&D. I won't say any more than that," says the CEO, leaving things pretty wide open.
One area where the company apparently believes it can be a leader is in hosted IPTV services, as Nokia Siemens is due to launch something in that market this year. (See Nokia Siemens Preps Hosted IPTV.)
But is it possible that, in the same way that AlcaLu and Microsoft have teamed up, that Nokia Siemens might also look to forge a muscle-building partnership? "I haven't put my mind to that," notes Beresford-Wylie.
AlcaLu still going solo in Austria
AlcaLu and Microsoft might be close friends in the IPTV world, but that doesn't mean they can't fly solo on the odd occasion.
And that's just what Pat Russo's crew is doing at Telekom Austria AG (NYSE: TKA; Vienna: TKA), which turned to Alcatel for its telco TV needs in 2004, before the partnership with Microsoft was sealed. (See Telekom Austria Does Triple Play.)
Now the Austrian incumbent has upgraded its aonTV service to include time-shift TV and high-definition (HD) TV, with AlcaLu providing all the requisite capabilities, and attracting fulsome praise from the carrier in its press release.
AlcaLu does have its own IPTV middleware platforms (even though Microsoft is its stated preferred supplier of such capabilities) -- one called Open Media Platform (OMP) and one called MiView TV. Telekom Austria is one of the 17 carriers still using the OMP platform. (See Alcatel's IPTV U-Turn and Alcatel Denies iMagic Fadeout.)
So has AlcaLu reversed its decision to stop developing OMP, or are these new IPTV capabilities enabled by other platforms?
AlcaLu's director of product and solutions marketing for IPTV and the digital home, Sue White, says OMP has not been enhanced with new features for the past few years (though of course it is still supported), and that customers can be migrated to MiView TV or another middleware platform when they choose to do so.
OMP customers, though, can add extra capabilities by deploying other products. In Telekom Austria's case, the time-shift TV capabilities come via AlcaLu's 5910 video streaming server, which, says White, is an "evolution of OVS, also known as VS [video server]," which, we found, was also known as the 5940 streaming server. "It's not a new product, but it's continually evolving," says White.
AlcaLu also had a hand in adding the HD TV capabilities by acting as lead integrator, working with incumbent encoding platform provider Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT).
Amino ups its game
Amino Technologies plc (London: AMO), which has just undergone a few significant corporate changes, as well as launching what it claims is the world's first all-digital HD IPTV set-top box -- or AD HD IPTV STB, if you're a telco TV acronym junkie. (See Amino Bows All-D HD STB.)
First, it named Andrew Burke as its new CEO. Burke is a "name" in the IPTV world, having been the head of BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)'s TV service developments from late 2004 to April 2006. (See Amino Names CEO and BT Creates Entertainment Division.)
Then it announced the acquisition, for about £1.4 million ($2.8 million) of AssetHouse Technologies, a 16-person strong specialist that is "the on-demand entertainment services provider behind the BT Vision offering."
AssetHouse isn't generating much in the way of revenues as yet -- just £400,000 ($790,000) in the year to May 31, 2008 -- but Amino has high hopes that sales can grow under its wing. "As the market for IPTV matures, technology is opening the door for telecoms companies to maximise opportunities through better services, targeted content and greater choice. Together, Amino and AssetHouse will close the loop between the set-top box and the merchandising, taking IPTV to the next stage," stated Burke in what must have been the first words he uttered as Amino's new man in charge.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading