Microsoft Readies for Prime Time With IPTV Solutions

Microsoft yesterday kicked off the NXTcomm08 event by showcasing its IPTV telco and service provider offerings. The company described some of its software, services and partner integration efforts in a series of announcements. NXTcomm08 is currently being held this week in Las Vegas.

Some of Microsoft's solutions for service providers center on its service delivery platform, known as Microsoft Connected Services Framework. The framework includes a customer care component that can be used with Microsoft Dynamics CRM to roll out and manage new services.

On the development side, Microsoft plans to demonstrate the use of Visual Studio at the show to create network mashups that combine telecom services with Web services. Another development tool is Microsoft's Connected Services Sandbox, which is used by the company's partners and ISVs to create commercial solutions for telecom providers. Microsoft currently is working with service provider SingTel on a project to develop a new vertical-industry mobile application as part of the Microsoft Connected Services Accelerator program.

On the consumer delivery side, Microsoft's efforts revolve around its Mediaroom Internet Protocol TV solution, a set-top box application for service providers that had its debut at last year's show. Mediaroom is used by consumers to organize and interact with multimedia (video, audio, photos) via the digital TV screen. The solution can record TV programs and also enables media sharing between the set-top box and devices that use Windows Media Connect.

Microsoft's announcement claims that 14 service providers currently are using Mediaroom to offer services to their TV customers. Partner support for Mediaroom includes system integrators 180Squared, HP and Tech Mahindra. Microsoft also gets quality-of-service technology support from Agilent Technologies and IneoQuest. In addition, Harris' NetVX SD product recently passed Microsoft's interoperability and qualification lab testing to work with Mediaroom. The NetVX SD product is typically used in the set-top box to facilitate video encoding.

On the enterprise services side, Microsoft offers its unified communications and collaboration platforms. Some of these solutions are cloud-based, such as Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration (HMC) Version 4.5. Service provider Telefónica uses a variation of this platform "to deliver convergent services for large enterprises in Spain," according to Microsoft's announcement. Microsoft's partner Nortel is the main system integrator of the Version 4.5 solution, which works with the Nortel CS 2000 IP softswitch. Microsoft has other partners that are also working to extend this platform to support additional voice capabilities and automation for service providers.

HMC can be used to address the small-to-medium business (SMB) market. HMC Version 4.5 supports unified messaging for SMBs over the cloud and works in conjunction with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 to add "collaboration and presence functionality," according to Microsoft's announcement. Virtualization and security in the datacenter are enhanced when HMC Version 4.5 is used in conjunction with Windows Server 2008 and Internet Information Services 7.0, Microsoft asserts.

Concentric, an enterprise service provider owned by XO Communications, launched a new hosted e-mail service for SMBs using Microsoft's services and solutions. The cloud-based e-mail service leverages Microsoft Hosted Exchange and Microsoft Outlook solutions, as well as ActiveSync. Concentric's other hosted offerings include Web site hosting, domain management and e-mail security.

Microsoft has adopted its "software plus services" philosophy in rolling out solutions to the telecom industry.

"Our vision for service providers is to deliver the converged lifestyle to their customers, where they can access any content, over any network on any screen," said Martha Béjar, corporate vice president for the Communications Sector at Microsoft, in a prepared statement. "By providing the three critical components -- screens, services and service delivery -- we are helping meet the needs of the industry that is driving toward Telco 2.0. We believe that this combination of software plus services will offer the best business case to operators and deliver the best choice to consumers and businesses."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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