Microsoft nearly blanketed the first morning of the CES show with a blizzard of releases about its Mediaroom product. Chief among the announcements were that Microsoft partner BT intends to make good on Microsoft’s threat to turn the Xbox 360 game console into a set-top box, and that Microsoft Mediaroom now supports multi-room DVR.
In addition, Microsoft claimed Mediaroom is now in 1 million set-tops worldwide, and announced that Broadcom has become an “ecosystem partner,” providing a system on a chip (SOC) that supports a number of advanced television and video networking features. Finally, the company is demonstrating some advanced applications with Showtime Networks and Turner Broadcasting at CES, applications that Microsoft says show the power of the Mediaroom platform and presage more applications likely to come down the pike.
The announcement with BT follows up on Microsoft’s news from the 2007 edition of CES. A year ago, the company announced that its Mediaroom IPTV software would be integrated with the Xbox 360.
BT is the first to jump on the opportunity. By mid 2008, it plans to start giving its BT Vision subscribers the option of getting the service (which includes VOD) through either the set-top box BT has been using (called the V-Box) or through an Xbox 360. The announcement was scheduled to have been made during the keynote address by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division. BT Vision subscribers who already own the game console will be able to use it.
Dan Marks, CEO of BT Vision, said “Our aim is to provide BT Vision on multiple platforms.”
Microsoft is calling its multi-room DVR feature “DVR Anywhere.” Microsoft told CED that the feature will allow up to three viewers to view different content stored on the DVR on up to three different screens in the home. Alternatively, single viewers moving throughout their homes could transfer one piece of content along with them from one TV to the next.
Microsoft, Showtime Networks, and Turner Broadcasting Systems’ TNT and CNN networks are demonstrating at CES some interactive applications enabled by Mediaroom. Showtime Interactive Boxing, allows viewers to choose from among several live audio feeds while watching the boxing match.
NASCAR on TNT allows viewers to choose not only audio feeds, but also from among several live in-car driver cameras and driver audio, while simultaneously watching the main race. One demo tied to CNN election coverage shows how viewers can pull in CNN.com’s 2008 election coverage while watching CNN’s television broadcast, and possibly even participate in interactive straw votes for candidates.
None of the three applications is currently planned to be broadcast by the networks demonstrating them.
Microsoft is also showing an application called My Pad, designed and built by emuse technologies, that connects viewers to their social networks through the TV via Windows Live services. Another called ChoiceStream compiles personalized TV and video-on-demand recommendations application tailored to each viewer’s unique tastes and preferences.
Microsoft and Broadcom are collaborating to make sure Mediaroom will operate will on set-tops that incorporate the latter’s BCM7405 system on a chip (SOC). Notable among the boxes using the Broadcom chip is the V-Box used by BT. A key issue will be providing content security, Microsoft said.
Finally, Microsoft said there are now one million set-tops based on Mediaroom deployed throughout the world. Microsoft said it is supplying Mediaroom to more than 20 customers; some of the largest deployments are with BT Vision (100,000 subscribers), AT&T U-verse (126,000 subscribers as of October), and Deutsche Telekom (100,000 subscribers as of December).
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