Microsoft to Telcos: Drive the Digital Lifestyle This Year with IPTV

Editors’ Update, April 4, 2006
– The list of broadband service providers using IPTV Edition – mentioned in the seventh answer below – has been expanded since original publication.

REDMOND, Wash., March 21, 2006 – Today in Las Vegas, Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division, is keynoting TelecomNEXT 2006, an exhibition and conference for communications service providers, suppliers, and content and applications companies. (The conference runs through March 23.) In his address today, Bach will highlight how software enables service providers to create and drive the digital lifestyle for consumers and business users, as well as discussing the current state of Internet-Protocol (IP) television.

Bach sat down recently with PressPass to provide background on Microsoft’s dialogue with the telecommunications industry, and on Microsoft’s software-based solutions and supporting infrastructure.

PressPass: What is Microsoft’s focus at TelecomNEXT?

Robbie Bach: We’re at TelecomNEXT to showcase our commitment as a strategic partner for telecommunications service providers. The telecommunications industry is moving quickly to harness the potential of Internet Protocol (IP)-based services. Our goal at TelecomNEXT is to demonstrate how software enables service providers to create and drive the digital lifestyle for consumers and business users.  

PressPass: People don’t normally associate Microsoft with being a telecommunications vendor. What is Microsoft’s vision for the telecommunications industry?

Bach: We strongly believe that IP technology will have a profound impact on the future, and we expect telecommunications service providers will eventually deliver all of their services over their IP backbone. In the near term, we see 2006 as the year service providers will roll out a triple play of services – voice, video and data – to consumers in volume around the world.

In the future, we see the delivery of triple-play services evolving to a single play where no silos exist between services. Instead of voice on your cell phone, data on your PC and video on your TV, each device will simply be a window into a world of communication and entertainment, with seamless access.

At Microsoft, our role is to serve as a technology enabler and partner in helping service providers deliver richly personalized experiences across all aspects of a consumer’s life, whether at home, at work, or on the move. In this way, service providers not only will create a stronger bond with their customers by meeting all of their information and entertainment needs, but they will also reduce subscriber churn and add incremental revenue opportunities by offering new services.

PressPass: You’re known as an advocate for the digital lifestyle. What does this mean, and can telecommunications industry successfully deliver it?

Bach: Yes. When we talk about the digital lifestyle, we envision a world in which information and entertainment flow to the consumer or business user, where, when and how they need it. For example, if I use my cell phone to take a photo of my kids while we’re on vacation, that photo should be instantly available on my PC at home, or on my parents’ TV set. I shouldn’t have to transfer it to my PC and then send an email attachment. When I watch TV, the content I see there should be directly relevant to me, and delivered on my schedule – and I should be able to watch it “together” with any of my friends and family around the world.

Telecommunications service providers are extremely well positioned to deliver this vision to businesses and consumers; it’s their commitment to delivering next-generation services over IP that will make the seamless and personalized delivery of content a reality. Service providers are beginning to see that the combination of ubiquitous broadband networks, service integration, and the magic of software are the winning ingredients to deliver unique, highly personalized services consumers demand as part of today’s digital lifestyle. 

PressPass: Everyone’s talking about IPTV. What is the true promise of IPTV for telcos, and what makes Microsoft the right partner?

Bach: Today, video is the missing element of the triple play bundle for some telecommunications service providers.  With IPTV, service providers can offer consumers a more compelling, personalized TV experience. Until recently, the TV set has been an island of information and entertainment in the home, but when you give the TV a strong back channel and connection to the world through IP, it opens the door to an amazing number of content choices and services.

Take March Madness, for example. Instead of offering individual games on separate channels, imagine a network like ESPN could offer you a beautiful mosaic of six or eight video “windows” showing the various games in progress. Using your remote, you can select your favorite game, but on smaller windows below you can follow the action in other games in progress. At any point you can swap between games with your remote, or make the other video windows disappear completely. That’s the power of IPTV – more choice, control, and convenience, and at the end of the day, a much more gratifying user experience.

The reason Microsoft is the right partner is that we have the software expertise, the resources and the long-term commitment to bring this picture to life. We’ve been investing heavily in next-generation TV experiences for a long time now, and we know what it will take to make it happen.

PressPass: What exactly is Microsoft Connected Services Framework?

Bach: Microsoft Connected Services Framework is an integrated, server-based software product that enables telecommunications operators to create, aggregate, provision and manage converged communications services for their subscribers, regardless of network or device. With Connected Services Framework, telecommunications providers can rapidly and easily bring together not only Microsoft applications, but also operator-developed services and a broad array of third-party offerings and content to create new combinations targeting specific customer segments. It’s this aggregation that is unique to the Microsoft solution, and it’s what allows operators to develop differentiated offerings that will attract new subscribers, build customer loyalty and importantly, drive new revenue streams.

PressPass: How does Microsoft Connected Services Framework complement what you’re doing with Microsoft TV IPTV Edition?

Bach: Microsoft Connected Services Framework provides a service control layer to enable operators to deliver Microsoft TV IPTV to their customers. By deploying Connected Services Framework, operators can efficiently deliver Microsoft TV, along with a range of other communications and entertainment services, such as instant messaging, e-mail, voice and gaming, all over the same infrastructure. We’re helping service providers turn so called “dumb pipes” into the delivery vehicle for the triple play of voice, video, data and beyond. 

PressPass: Microsoft just announced Deutsche Telekom (DT) as another customer for its Microsoft TV IPTV Edition platform. What is the significance of that announcement?

Bach: The agreement with Deutsche Telekom is Microsoft’s largest IPTV contract in Europe to date and its second-largest worldwide. That agreement, together with Telecom Italia’s recent selection of Microsoft TV IPTV Edition, signifies the growing number of the world’s largest and most innovative communications companies committed to the business potential of IPTV services powered by Microsoft TV. This brings Microsoft TV to 13 publicly announced broadband service provider customers worldwide using IPTV Edition, of which nine are committed to commercial deployments. Those nine are AT&T, BT, Deutsche Telekom, Swisscom, T-Online France, TDC, Telecom Italia, Verizon and Another four customers – Bell South, Bell Canada, Reliance Infocomm and Telkom South Africa – are in trials.

PressPass: What should the telecommunications industry expect from Microsoft over the next year?

Bach: We will continue to innovate, rolling out new versions of Microsoft TV IPTV Edition that support additional features, upgrades to our Connected Services Framework platform, as well as delivering newer offerings such as our Solution for Enhanced VoIP Services. We expect AT&T, BT, Swisscom and others will extend their commercial rollout of IPTV to numerous markets, and that other customers will introduce their first commercial IPTV services based on Microsoft TV IPTV Edition. In 2007, we’ll begin to see even larger customer deployments of IPTV services, along with the first examples of connected services as service providers extend their offerings to other devices.

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