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Who Makes What: IP Video Systems

Light Reading

IPTV middleware can be thought of as the "central nervous system" of the video distribution network. It orchestrates interactions among all software moving parts that make up the video distribution platform. These moving parts can include the user interface or programming guide software, conditional access systems, digital rights management servers, and video-on-demand (VOD) servers.

Some middleware vendors supply a browser client that runs on a set-top box, while others make middleware that manages only servers up in the network. (See IPTV's Middleware Mandate and Sigma Integrates ANT.)

Middleware vendors continue to take very different approaches to their roles in video networks. The Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) TV Edition middleware is designed to control an end-to-end all-Microsoft set of video processing components. Microsoft believes that, because IPTV is a young technology, operators want the tight integration and the single-vendor accountability that the end-to-end approach affords. (See IPTV: Microsoft's Window to Carriers.) Smaller middleware companies such as Orca Interactive Ltd. and Myrio Corp. (a Siemens subsidiary) have introduced similar middleware that is designed to integrate with IPTV hardware and software made by other vendors. These vendors believe carriers don't want to be handcuffed to a single video software vendor, but rather want to choose the best technology available for each part of the distribution system. So vendors like Myrio and Orca claim to have built in "open APIs" to allow handshakes with other vendors' software with a minimum of integration work. Some analysts believe that, as IPTV software evolves and matures, this "best-of-breed" approach will become the norm.

Following are the vendors that currently sell IPTV middleware:

Next Page: Conditional Access & DRM

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