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Microsoft Cracks Open Mediaroom IPTV Code

Microsoft renamed its Internet-protocol-TV software platform -- now called Mediaroom -- and with the new version, the software will allow service providers to create their own interactive-TV applications.

Mediaroom, formerly called Microsoft TV IPTV Edition, also adds the ability to let users listen or view to music and photos stored on their PCs on their televisions. Another new feature lets IPTV providers deliver up to 16 picture-in-picture windows on a single screen.

“The platform is really stepping a bit outside traditional TV experiences,” Microsoft TV communications manager Jim Brady said. “We’re showing that we’re committed to this business.”

By dubbing it Mediaroom, Microsoft is also positioning its IPTV technology to become an “ingredient brand” (à la “Intel inside”). Service-provider customers can choose whether or not to co-brand their TV services with the Mediaroom logo, Brady said.

The software’s new Multimedia Application Environment provides an HTML-based development environment, with open-application-programming interfaces that will allow third parties to develop applications for Mediaroom.

“It’s been in our plans all along to open up the platform,” Brady said. “We’ve spent the last year-and-a-half fine-tuning the platform. The initial goal was to make sure the basic TV experience was not just me-too service, that it was better than cable and satellite, and now we’re taking the next step.”

The picture-in-picture enhancements of Mediaroom are also supposed to turn service providers’ heads. The MultiView feature could allow a viewer to set up their own multiscreen views -- such as watching several different sports channels at once. A provider, in conjunction with a programmer, could also deliver multiple camera angles using MultiView.

The software allows up to 16 PIPs on a single screen. But, Brady noted, “depending on your TV, that might not be feasible. Six is probably the most people are going to do.”

In addition, Mediaroom provides support for digital terrestrial television, allowing service providers to offer over-the-air broadcasts integrated with IPTV services. Brady said this was a specific requirement of BT Group, which launched its Vision service in December, and other customers in Europe had a similar need.

Currently, 10 service providers worldwide are commercially deploying the Microsoft IPTV platform for their digital-TV offerings, including AT&T, BT, Deutsche Telekom, T-Online in France and Switzerland’s Swisscom.

Microsoft plans to demo Mediaroom at the NXTcomm conference this week in Chicago.