Microsoft, SBC Team to Provide IPTV Service

Jan 6, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The latest evidence of the telco push into the video business came during Bill Gates’ keynote address Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show, during which he discussed Microsoft’s recent deal with SBC Communications to provide Internet protocol TV services for the phone company.

The deal was Microsoft’s first with a large telco. Since the SBC pact last November, Microsoft has also made an IPTV agreement with BellSouth.

Mr. Gates also continued to push the Microsoft Media Center PC as the centerpiece for a digital lifestyle during his pre-show address Wednesday night in Las Vegas that included announcements of a series of new content partnerships and a pact with TiVo.

But the SBC news generated the most immediate buzz because of its cutting-edge capabilities. The IPTV infrastructure enables high-definition TV, a complete video store available on-demand, four simultaneous streams of video, picture-in-a-picture, a digital video recorder on every TV in the home and lightning-fast channel changes, eliminating the lag time that occurs with today’s interactive program guides, said Lea Ann Champion, senior executive VP of IP operations and services at SBC, who demonstrated the capabilities during the keynote.

“You can say goodbye to the two-second lag you have today,” she said. More details on SBC’s video plans were expected during SBC CEO Ed Whitacre’s keynote Thursday morning.

Mr. Gates also said Microsoft is working with TiVo to enable its customers to transfer content from their DVRs to any Media Center PC–including portable ones–using a remote. He added that Microsoft has forged a deal with MTV Networks to work with MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and other MTV channels to create free, subscription or download content for the media center PC.

Another content deal announced is with Discovery Channel to create an advanced guide for Discovery content on the Media Center PC, said Sean Alexander, group product manager for Windows at Microsoft.

“Discovery saw an opportunity with the Media Center to provide a rich media guide for their subscribers,” he said. “I can watch a preview and set the Media Center to immediately record it.”

Finally, Mr. Gates announced a partnership with Pioneer and Digitrex that will allow Media Center PC content to be accessed from a Pioneer high-definition TV.

“It’s about choice,” Mr. Gates said, “letting people see more variety of shows, letting them see the shows they want, being able to mix content they might get over the Internet as well as content they get from other sources.” Unfortunately, two of the Microsoft demos failed to work: a photo slide show on a PC and a gaming demo.