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RealTime IT News

Microsoft's Windows Media 9 Spreads in Europe

Software giant Microsoft is continuing the push to position its digital media player platform in Europe, inking a slew of deals with multimedia companies.

On Friday, at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam, Microsoft announced it would share the underlying video compression code with several partners in Europe. That's in addition to its work with standards groups helping to formulate the next version of MPEG-2, the compression and file format standard for digital video compression.

Microsoft's moves hint at an aggressive push to make the Window Media 9 Series the de-facto standard for digital media delivery -- on the Internet, on broadcast systems and on set-top boxes and consumer electronic devices.

Microsoft is not alone in its attempt to drive multimedia standards. Both Apple Computer and RealNetworks are also moving to share code with standards bodies.

At the IBC conference, Microsoft said it signed up several partners who will be delivering broadcasts and building the WM9 platform standard into future versions of their set-top boxes and digital broadcast platforms.

Microsoft said it would enable network operators to deploy end-to-end Internet Protocol (IP) television and video-on-demand services that are now available from leading manufacturers, based on Microsoft WM9 Series and Windows CE .NET.

"Network operators deliver live broadcasts and interactive services such as VOD and IPTV over broadband networks to the television via advanced, low-cost set-top boxes running Windows CE .NET," Microsoft said. "By using Windows Media 9 Series in their deployments, operators can deliver standard-definition (SD) video at a fraction of the bandwidth required using traditional MPEG-2, while also ensuring secure delivery of content using Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM)."

Microsoft expects trials and deployments of both VOD and IPTV services to rollout before the end of the year.

In one deal, Monaco Telecom said it would be utilizing Windows Media 9 Series to deliver Video-on-Demand and IP television (IPTV) services to its customers with advanced set-top boxes.

Monaco Telecom, working with Moviesystem of France, offers more than 400 movies in its VOD service using Windows Media Video 9 Series streamed from Windows Server 2003, Microsoft said.

Germany's T-Online International said it had launched some VOD services based on the Microsoft Windows Media 9 Series format.

Samsung, which is strong in European markets, also said it would use Microsoft's technology in its SMT-7000E advanced set-top box.

SMT-7000E boxes support broadband services, entertainment-on-demand (video/games/music-on-demand), value-added Web-based services, home surveillance, telephony and mobile commerce (banking, securities, transaction), Microsoft said.

Among hardware suppliers for cable operators, SeaChange International said it will be supporting Windows Media 9.

"With Windows Media 9 Series, the SeaChange VOD system delivers high-quality video streams in SD and HD to PC and television viewers at significantly lower bandwidths than commensurate MPEG-2 files," Microsoft said.

Microsoft's exhaustive list of partners also includes Orca Interactive Ltd.'s RiGHTv, which said it would offer an end-to-end broadband-television middleware solution that supports WM 9. The company said its technology is helping generate new revenue streams for network operators that want to stream over different digital subscriber lines (xDSL) and other IP broadband networks."

Also, Stellar One's StellarTV Product Suite enables "the delivery of media-on-demand services over IP broadband networks, now enabling consumers to play back content created using Windows Media 9 Series, and will enable network operators to offer new video-on-demand services to end users over existing broadband networks."