Microsoft is considering supporting the UK Canvas specification – backed by a BBC, ITV and BT joint venture – as a possible feature of its Mediaroom IPTV suite, but only if it is genuinely open.
The suggestion came from Ted Malone, senior director of product management for TV, video, music and platform business at Microsoft, when Connected TV met up with him at IBC.
“If it proceeds as an open approach,” said Malone, “we could add support as a feature of Mediaroom.” Malone said that Microsoft would be paying close attention to the Canvas specification, when it finally emerges, to see if it included any proprietary standards. If so, Microsoft would not consider it to be “an open format.”
Malone declined to comment on what role BT Vision might play within the Canvas venture (a source of considerable speculation at IBC) , but, since this incorporates Mediaroom technology, albeit in a limited implementation, it does suggest one way in which the hybrid concept could be extended to accommodate Canvas. That, of course, will depend on what technology elements the Canvas venture eventually decides to incorporate in its specification, and whether it gets regulatory approval.
Malone pointed out that Microsoft was itself in the process of refashioning Mediaroom to make it a more open platform: for instance, he said, the current Windows Media Player DRM used in its IPTV suite was viewed as having reached the end of its working-life. It would now be replaced by PlayReady, a next-generation DRM product which is already part of the Silverlight platform.
This would make it easier for a Mediaroom set-top box to stream protected video content to other devices in the home. “We’re looking to migrate all of our proprietary DRM [to PlayReady],” Malone said.
The move reflects increasing convergence between the Mediaroom product – intended for managed IPTV platforms – and Microsoft’s ‘over-the-top’ technologies. For instance, Mediaroom will be extended to support Silverlight itself as well as the PlayReady DRM it incorporates. It will also adopt Microsoft’s Smooth Streaming technology. This adapts the quality of the video stream in real time, based upon the consumer’s changing bandwidth and the performance of his or her device, to minimise buffering time and offer faster startup times.
“Mediaroom will embrace these and extend the reach of the Mediaroom service,” said Malone.
Connected TV views this as a natural progression: as the performance and reliability of consumers’ broadband links increases and offers a video experience more akin to that of a managed IPTV network, the need for Microsoft to support two entirely distinct product lines is disappearing.