Microsoft today announced the availability of Microsoft Mediaroom, a re-branded version of its IPTV software platform that enables service providers to deliver interactive IPTV services into the home.
Along with the new name, the company has added a number of new features including PC to set-top-box media sharing (photos and music), multi picture-in-picture capabilities, and over-the-air digital terrestrial television support. Additionally, the new Microsoft Mediaroom Application Development toolkit allows service providers and third-party developers to connect to web services and develop TV-based applications that will run under Microsoft Mediaroom.
The first thing to note is that Microsoft is pushing the idea that by attaching its consumer-facing brand ‘Microsoft Mediaroom’ it can help television service providers differentiate their service from competitors.
By adding media extender capabilities (PC to TV), the platform begins to encroach on consumer devices like the AppleTV. It’s also likely that set-top-boxes based on Mediaroom will be perceived as being “free” to customers as they’ll come bundled as part of an IPTV subscription service.
Mediaroom is intended as a platform which encourages developers to build new applications and services. It’s quite possible that software could be added that makes any set-top-box/service based on the platform compete with additional devices and markets such as casual gaming, or music and film download services, as well as open up Mediaroom to partner with existing players in those markets.
Finally, the inclusion of a digital terrestrial television functionality would allow interactive IPTV capabilities for over-the-air television by having the same box act as a digital tuner as well as connect to a user’s broadband connection. This would be particularly relevant in the UK where the Freeview DTT service is very popular. (See our recent post ‘UK television networks to launch a Joost-killer?‘)