Microsoft showed off its interactive television platform in Amsterdam at IBC2004, an international conference devoted to the broadcasting industry. Microsoft is hyping its Microsoft TV Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) software platform, along with technologies for its Windows Media 9 Series and Windows CE platforms.

At the show, running through September 13, Microsoft unveiled the first set-top boxes to support its IPTV platform from Thomson which, among other things, supplies digital entertainment receivers to satellite, cable and terrestrial broadcasters.

Telecom Italia Group said it would test next-generation television services using the IPTV platform, joining Bell Canada, Reliance Infocomm, SBC Communications and Swisscom/Bluewin.

The Microsoft TV IPTV platform lets broadband network operators deliver video content and services including standard- and high-definition channels, on-demand programming, digital video recording and interactive program guides. It also allows network operators to integrate pay-TV services with other broadband services delivered to PCs, game consoles and other devices in the home using a common set of back-office and network systems.

“In less than a year Microsoft has signed agreements with a number of the world’s leading broadband operators to trial IPTV services powered by our innovative software solutions,” Moshe Lichtman, corporate vice president of the Microsoft TV Division, said in a statement.

At the show, Windows Media Video 9 hardware-based HD encoding and decoding chipsets and reference designs for set-top boxes and next-generation DVD players were demonstrated by Equator Technologies, Sigma Designs, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments.

Tandberg Television premiered EN5920, the first real-time hardware encoder integrated with Microsoft TV IPTV. Tandberg creates products and systems for the delivery of live video and on-demand content across cable, DSL, fiber, IP, satellite and terrestrial networks.

The Windows Media 9 Series platform includes a player, a streaming server feature in Windows Server 2003 for distributing content, an encoder for content creation, digital rights management functions and the Windows Media Software Development Kit. The encoder delivers high-definition video at lower bit rates; VC-1, the proposed SMPTE standard for HDTV, is based on Windows Media Video 9.

Microsoft announced eight additional original equipment manufacturers that will use Windows CE to power their IP set-top boxes. IP set-top boxes running Windows CE can be customized to enable cable and network operators to bring rich new multimedia experiences to their customers.

Microsoft has been aggressively pushing Windows Media 9 format as an industry standard, and the partnerships and reference designs are another beachhead in its move off the desktop and into the living room.

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