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Video hardware

Sun Still Has an IPTV 'DreaM'

Sun Microsystems Inc. says its whipping up an IPTV distribution system that will provide carriers with an open standards alternative to the market-leading Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Microsoft TV Edition platform. (See Sun Shines on IPTV.) Sun will leverage its popular Java application language to build many of the components in its IPTV system. Because the end-to-end system is built on Java-based open standards, Sun says, it will play nicely with video applications made by other companies.

Microsoft TV, by contrast, is a tightly integrated, all-Microsoft platform. All aspects of the video delivery process -- from encoding to content management to the digital rights management (DRM) -- are managed by one continuous software system. (See IPTV: Microsoft's Window to Carriers.)

The director of Sun's telecom and media business unit, Andy Sheldon, contends some carriers are already feeling a bit hemmed-in by Microsoft's approach. “Let's say going forward that you didn’t like the Microsoft PVR, that you wanted the Tivo PVR instead, you couldn’t go and build that into the Microsoft stack, because they’ve integrated it totally,” Sheldon says.

Microsoft says its tightly integrated, "one-throat-to-choke" approach is simply a reflection of market demand.

"It’s exactly this end-to-end integration and superior consumer experience that sets IPTV Edition above the rest and why the world’s leading telecom providers have chosen Microsoft TV as their IPTV software platform of choice,” says Microsoft TV spokesman Jim Brady in an email to Light Reading.

"IPTV Edition is more open than many competitive digital TV solutions in the market today, which is a key reason Microsoft TV has IPTV agreements with 13 of the leading telecommunications service providers around the world," Brady writes.

Several industry sources say replacing one part of the Microsoft TV software platform with a non-Microsoft application is a difficult and costly affair.

By contrast, Sun is relying on several partner companies to complete the end-to-end functionality of its video distribution system. “We’ve got multiple irons in the fire here,” Sheldon says.

To start with, Sun’s middleware platform comes from the small Swiss company Osmosys SA . Osmosys, which is a subsidiary of Advanced Digital Broadcast Holdings SA (Swiss: ADBN), built its middleware product using the Multimedia Home Protocol (MHP) standard, which is Java-based.

Sun is partnering with Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) for encoders; with Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) for set-top boxes; with Imake Software & Services Inc. for content management and conditional access; and with Digisoft.tv for Java-based, consumer-facing video applications.

For DRM, Sun is building its own open source product called "DReaM," Sheldon says. Sheldon says DReaM will allow content owners to set their own usage rules for their content.

Sun’s IPTV distribution system centers around a video server called Streamstar. (See Cisco Big Bolts for Startup and Sun Deals for Handy Andy.) Sun says the new server is powerful enough to stream video to thousands of subscribers at once, a feat that it says is proving challenging for some telcos now deploying mass market video networks. (See SBC, Microsoft Defend Lightspeed.)

Sun would provide no details of the Asian, European, and U.S. carrier trials in which Streamstar is now being tested. Sheldon says the Streamstar server will be generally available by the end of 2006.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 3:59:57 AM
re: Sun Still Has an IPTV 'DreaM' I wonder how this relates to OpenTV, a company started by Sun Microsystem. They provide software to set-top boxes and claim millions of installed systems, including the majority of European deployments.
Honestly 12/5/2012 | 3:59:56 AM
re: Sun Still Has an IPTV 'DreaM' Looks to me like Microsoft has pretty much run the table. You can't arrive at the dance at midnight and take home the prom queen. Gotta settle for the big girl at the bar Sun. The Microsoft guy said it best, end to end system is what they asked for and got. Anything less in these huge deployments = IP pain. Game on, game over and MS is big enough to support the whole enchilada with its partners and that is what this calls for.

chengjinzhu 12/5/2012 | 3:59:55 AM
re: Sun Still Has an IPTV 'DreaM' You are probably right. MSFT has 13 carrier announcements / trials but the number of live paying subscribers using the solution is still in the low thousands from what I can gather. The MSFT product has promise but I would say there is still time for Cisco + SA or Sun or others and customers will welcome an open option. Microsoft will have to screw up pretty seriously for the window to open but this is not impossible.

The more serious medium-term/long-term threat is probably going to come from video downloaded in a browser from an video.google.com or iTunes equivalent. But oh, I guess Microsoft has that angle covered as well.
interop-man 12/5/2012 | 3:59:54 AM
re: Sun Still Has an IPTV 'DreaM' Thus it seems too early in the evening to see if the market winner will be a proprietary solution. Are any other large market players supporting SUN in this effort?
Welshman 12/5/2012 | 3:59:53 AM
re: Sun Still Has an IPTV 'DreaM' OpenTV is a Proprietary Broadcast Middleware that has limitations...Sun have backed an Open Standard (MHP-IPTV) which comes out of the DVB consortium of which OpenTV is a member and helped to make MHP...despite its constant attack in the market place of such a technology.

OpenTV has aspiration in IPTV but will be equally up against it with the 30 or so other flavours that seem to permeate the market place.

I think consolidation is in order and only the Giants will win...
Welshman 12/5/2012 | 3:59:52 AM
re: Sun Still Has an IPTV 'DreaM' Standards do not come into play until their is a problem. IPTV has the making of that problem as did the Digital TV industry...this is a case of history repeating itself in IPTV. Minerva, Microsoft, Orca, Occillon, Ant, Espial, Myrio, and it goes on and on...The problem will come in the not too distant future when the product required in themarket has a Terrestrial or Satellite Front End and an IPTV connection and everyone will have to put two middleware in the STB with the horsepower of 300Mhz and the memory of a low level device...it will not be a viable product for the consumer/producer/telco etc...and this is reality.
opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 3:59:47 AM
re: Sun Still Has an IPTV 'DreaM' So is this MHP-IPTV open standard deployed anywhere? Is it mature and stable?

Microsoft has had trials going on all over the world starting with Korea years ago. They have great marketing demos to show the carriers. What can the MHP-IPTV teams show?

One of the problems with open systems is that there are so many competitors that it is easy for a large focused company like Microsoft to blow them away. Is it too late for the consolidation you say is needed?

On the other hand there could be unpublished problems with the Microsoft approach (stability and scaling issues? I'm not saying I know of any). And companies or countries could start requiring the open approach.
Mark Sullivan 12/5/2012 | 3:59:38 AM
re: Sun Still Has an IPTV 'DreaM' Further explaination needed. Who will have to "put two middleware products in" -- the set top box makers? If the set top box is the end point of a single IPTV distribution system, why would it have to understand two middleware platforms?
Mark Sullivan 12/5/2012 | 3:59:37 AM
re: Sun Still Has an IPTV 'DreaM' The way telcos select technology partners, it seems entirely plausable that they will eventually prefer systems where best-of-breed components can easily moved in and out of the system. In an immature market, it makes total sense for Microsoft to walk in with tightly-woven, end-to-end system. But in the second generation of IPTV platforms, carriers may not tolerate that rigidity, not to mention the uncomfortable reliance one one vendor.
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