Over at ITVT, there is a two-part interview with representatives from Siemens and Microsoft debating their varying approaches to IPTV technologies and the market. Of course, I am biased as my team and I make many of the decisions about the Siemens approach to the market as well as many of the technology choices in our solution.
It will be very interesting to hear the Microsoft marketing machine as they respond to our perspective as captured in part one. The Microsoft marketing machine has typically done a very good job in “responding” to critical reviews of their IPTV solution.
For those of you who don’t understand the approach Microsoft has taken in IPTV, it is typical Microsoft. Take the best ideas from the market leaders (embrace), and modify the established approach to enhance your competitive position (extend). Classic Microsoft.
For IPTV, Microsoft used several plays from this well-worn playbook. For example, Microsoft embraced much of the established ideas in IPTV, but they created a new concept they called “instant channel change”. Before Microsoft came into the market, no one knew they needed an “instant” channel change, but Microsoft’s marketing team convinced the market that IPTV could be better only if it included instantaneous channel changing. In my view, this is not exactly the kind of disruptive feature a telco needs to convince a customer to leave cable or satellite and move to IPTV.
What Microsoft did not tell customers, was that to achieve “instant” channel change, it would require a completely revamped broadcast architecture, deviating from accepted IPTV architectures, extensive use of unicast, and complete dependency on Microsoft technology (codec, DRM, streaming servers etc.). Complete technology lock-in and reliance on Microsoft. Who really benefited from instant channel change, well Microsoft, of course. As we and others began to question the market value of such a feature, the market took a critical look at Microsoft’s approach.
In the end, the technological complexity (think cost, $$$) required to achieve this effect and the fact that it relied on Microsoft server software (which everyone knows is not even close to carrier grade), could not be justified by the business case. Will instant channel change come to a TV near you? Possibly, but a number of vendors have shown how to achieve the same result in a standards-based fashion–with no Microsoft lock-in.
Instant channel change is just one example, but Microsoft has been very quiet about most of their competitive differentiators as of late. Why? Well, they are under the gun to get AT&T working beyond trial subscribers. Of course, the Microsoft marketing machine would have us all believe they have “launched”, well that is a matter of perspective. My belief is that AT&T cannot deploy anywhere, anytime to any subscriber nor can they market the service at full speed because Microsoft is still working through service debilitating bugs and cannot show the scalability that AT&T needs to go full speed ahead.