Another early season gift for the cable industry was this week’s announcement that the much-maligned Microsoft TV has new life in the Old World.

BT (that’s British Telecom to the non-telco types out there) launched its new TV and entertainment service, BT Vision, using the Microsoft TV IPTV edition software platform and an advanced Philips set-top box. The service, which blends over-the-air digital signals with more traditional pay TV programming delivered via IP, is available across the United Kingdom.

Despite what the nabobs of negativity might have you believe, Microsoft TV is doing the job in fine fettle, as the English might say – if they were to use terms like "fine fettle."

"The system today is working flawlessly," said Adam Liversage, a BT spokesman. "We did have some low level internal trials to iron out the glitches, so I wouldn’t say there haven’t been glitches which we’ve identified and rectified along the way, but we’ve done a full commercial consumer launch today, and the product works."

That’s good news for Microsoft, which has been under fire for delays with such rollouts as AT&T‘s U-Verse service in the United States. BT joins other European customers that include T-Online France, T-Online Germany, Swisscom and T-Online Hungary in rolling out the service.

While the service is called IPTV, it has less to do with IP and the Internet and more to do with TV, said Elena Branet, senior marketing manager of Microsoft TV-EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

"IPTV is a competitive TV service delivered by a broadband provider over a managed IP network that provides full quality of service for the television service through the broadband connection," she lectured. More devices to come The initial set-top boxes used to deliver that content are "based on a system-on-chip (SoC) that’s IPTV capable," Branet said. It won’t be long, therefore, until those same SoCs are in the drawers of other devices like computers, PDAs and DVDs.

"All in good time," advised Liversage. "The long-term vision for our BT Vision product is delivering the content you like on any device anywhere in the UK. But you have to take one step at a time, and the step we’ve taken is to launch the TV service."

One small step for BT, one giant step for Microsoft and one more worry for the cable industry.

"This is absolutely our customers getting off the ground," Branet confirmed. – Jim Barthold

The Daily

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