Video software

Orca's Not Blubbering

IPTV middleware player Orca Interactive Ltd. is spouting optimism in the wake of the titanic merger of its partner Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) with the big fish (le grand poisson) across the pond, Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA). (See Lucent, Orca Team on IPTV.)

Orca’s product is well regarded by analysts but has been outsold by Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s dominant TV product. Considering Microsoft’s tight bond with Alcatel and the duo’s string of carrier wins, a combined Alcatel/Lucent could default to the Microsoft platform, setting Orca adrift.

Or not, says Orca’s marketing VP Yosi Glick. Glick insists that the merged Alcatel/Lucent, if it doesn’t choose Orca outright, will at least want to have both middleware options in its portfolio. (See Lucent Sees IPTV Opening.)

The fact that Lucent and Orca are already engaged together at several customers might make it so, at least in the near term. Glick says his company, with Lucent, has won one IPTV deployment at an unannounced Tier 1 carrier and is engaged in trials with several other telcos.

“On the forefront I’m sure Microsoft will still play a big role, but there are clearly accounts where Orca has done pretty well,” says Heavy Reading analyst Rick Thompson. (See Orca Demos IPTV Software.)

Thompson says Orca may play a stepsister role to Microsoft at the new Alcatel/Lucent. “I’m sure they can continue to use them if they need to, but I can’t imagine that they would be too loud about it from a marketing perspective.”

“You make the presupposition that Microsoft is going to scale, but there is still a lot of skepticism about that,” Orca's Glick says. Meanwhile, he adds, Orca has actual deployments and has benchmarked its system’s performance delivering video to 500,000 subscribers.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)’s Project Lightspeed is just now preparing for its “limited scaled launch,” using the Alcatel/Microsoft solution, but the carrier won’t say how many subscribers will be involved.

Glick suggests Orca’s industry cachet might benefit even more if Lucent/Alcatel were to opt for an exclusive agreement with Microsoft TV. (See Expect More IPTV M&A.)

“Market consolidation will always benefit market leaders,” Glick says. “It’s like musical chairs -- the first big companies to consolidate will naturally mate with the number one partner in the marketplace. Then next in line to consolidate will take the number two player,” Glick says. “If Microsoft is considered number one, then whoever makes the next move will have to work with Orca.”

Orca's partnership with Lucent was first announced in July 2005. Orca also lists Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Nortel Networks Ltd. as partners.

Microsoft hadn't responded before this story was filed. Alcatel and Lucent declined to comment.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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