ANAHEIM, Calif., Nov. 27, 2001 — The promise of interactive TV (iTV) is becoming a reality — spurred by milestone developments and new technologies that will revolutionize the way people use their TV sets. Despite an uneasy economy, consumers are interested in iTV services and network operators are beginning to roll them out. Microsoft is working with a variety of cable and iTV companies to develop and deliver compelling services that enrich peoples viewing experiences and create new revenue opportunities for the industry.
Microsoft TV is showing cable and iTV leaders how to take advantage of the momentum this week at the 2001 Western Cable Show, running through Nov. 30 in Anaheim. The Microsoft TV booth features a number of firsts — including the first showcase of .NET applications for TV and the unveiling of the new advanced iTV service from Charter Communications, powered by Microsoft TV.
Microsoft and Charter Communications
The first public showcase of Charters service comes on the heels of the Nov. 7 announcement that Charter selected Microsoft to deploy advanced interactive TV services to more than 1 million subscribers using Microsoft TV Advanced and Microsoft TV Server. It will be the largest deployment of advanced iTV services in the U.S to date, and illustrates the momentum for advanced iTV services in the U.S. and for the Microsoft TV platform.
“We selected Microsoft TV because it will enable us to quickly deploy the interactive information and entertainment services that consumers are looking for from interactive TV,” says Steve Silva, executive vice president and chief technical officer for Charter. “Microsoft offers an open, scalable platform and has the proven ability to integrate content and services from our existing partners. This agreement enables us to add interactive TV services to our current business immediately.”
Charter is preparing a field trial of the advanced iTV service in its hometown of St. Louis, with an expanded launch to customers expected in early 2002. Subscribers will find innovative services that will allow them to personalize their TV experience. Initially, Charter will offer e-mail, Internet browsing and content from digeo, including on-demand local and national news, weather, sports, entertainment, shopping, games and more. The trial also will include streaming-media services featuring Microsoft Windows Media technologies, the leading digital-media platform.
“Microsoft is excited to work with Charter on making the broadband experience engaging, fun and useful for consumers, and more profitable for the cable industry,” says Jon DeVaan, senior vice president of the TV Division at Microsoft. “Charter’s decision to select Microsoft as its primary strategic partner for interactive TV underscores the benefits of Microsoft TV’s open, scalable platform and the ease of integration of its content and services.”
Microsoft TV Around the World
Customers around the globe share Microsofts vision for iTV. By providing services such as video-on-demand, personal video recorders (PVR) and
network operators can generate additional revenue streams, attract new subscribers and decrease subscriber
Consumers get a wide range of options that will let them tailor their TV viewing to what they want to watch, when they want to watch it, and what information they want to see.
TV Cabo, Portugal: TV Cabos Interactiva service, launched in June, is the worlds most advanced broadband cable iTV service, combining DVR functionality with a range of other iTV features in one integrated set-top box. The service is powered by Microsoft TV Advanced and Microsoft TV Server, featuring more than 30 fully interactive channels. More than half of all Interactiva subscribers are using the interactive services each day, including banking from their television with two of Portugals biggest banks and shopping with one of the countrys largest grocery chains.
TAK, France: The TAK interactive TV service, launched in February, is powered by Microsoft TV Advanced software and is built into Thomson television sets. Consumers simply plug the set into the telephone outlet to take advantage of interactive services and programming. Interactive features include enhanced broadcasting, e-mail, Internet access and themed channels. More than half of all TAK users connect to the service at least once per week.
UltimateTV, United States: Microsoft TV powers the UltimateTV service for DirecTV in the U.S. UltimateTV is the only service that offers DirecTV programming, personal video recording (PVR), live TV controls, two tuners (so viewers can watch or record two live shows at the same time), Internet access and enhanced TV programming — all in one package. Viewers can build their own personal program libraries, thanks to a hard drive that stores up to 35 hours of programming. Since its debut in March, UltimateTV has been a hit with consumers, the industry and independent reviewers from, among others, the Wall Street Journal and ZDNet.
Microsoft is showcasing Microsoft TV-powered solutions from around the world at the 2001 Western Cable show. In addition to Charter and TV Cabo Portugal, these include services from Matav (Israel) and and Globo Cabo (Brazil). These services highlight additional Microsoft TV products, including Microsoft TV Basic Digital, for first generation set-top boxes, and Microsoft TV Access Channel Server, for server-based iTV content.
.NET and XML Web Services for TV — and Beyond
Also at the 2001 Western Cable Show, Microsoft is demonstrating how to build services for TV with Microsoft .NET technology, which improves integration with existing business systems and popular consumer devices such as handheld devices, mobile phones and PCs. The next generation of iTV will include services that will let consumers access the same information and experiences from multiple devices, including a Microsoft TV-powered set-top box. Developers can create and deploy these XML-based Web services using Microsoft’s standards-based .NET platform.
For instance, a customer could set a PVR to record a favorite TV show — from his or her cell phone, send a text message from the TV to a relative hundreds of miles away, or put all e-mail and voicemail messages into a unified inbox, which can be accessed from the TV. Customers can create photo albums right on the TV and deliver those photos to different devices — a PC, wireless PocketPC, or even a digital picture frame. Managing media becomes much easier, through services that integrate music and videos from a variety of sources into one space. That content can then be accessed from many different devices — no matter where a person may be.
XML Web Services created using the .NET platform are based on established industry standards for easy development, integration and delivery of services between applications and devices. XML, the industry standard for formatting data on the Web, is at the core of .NET. The flexibility and openness of XML means virtually any iTV company or cable operator can take advantage of .NET by delivering advanced interactive services that go beyond the TV.
Microsoft TV Developer Initiatives
Microsofts big-picture vision for
“What TV Can Be”
doesnt stop with its customers — the network operators. Microsoft works with companies at every step of the iTV value chain, including content developers. For iTV to succeed, compelling content must be developed to help drive consumer demand, but the world of iTV programming is still new and relatively unknown. Microsoft TV’s support for developers can provide content developers with tools, training and other resources.
Developers will get first-hand information on how to maximize the tools and training resources available through the program at the Microsoft TV Developer Conference, Dec. 6-7 at the Microsoft Silicon Valley Campus. Developers will learn technical and business aspects of working with Microsoft TV, and see demonstrations of iTV application developer, service revenue models, the latest market research and a preview of the forthcoming Application Jumpstart kit for developers.
In the coming months, the Microsoft TV Developer Program will be extended to meet the evolving needs of iTV developers, including the addition of a new, no-fee basic membership tier. The basic tier will provide access to self-paced training, newsgroups, code samples and more. Membership to this new tier will be offered to qualifying companies at no charge.