Blog Post

Microsoft's Lichtman Defends IPTV Program

After weeks of reports and speculation that Microsoft’s IPTV plans have hit a snag or two, Moshe Lichtman, who runs the TV division, took the company’s case directly to analysts and investors in an hour-long call held by UBS just before the July 4th break. I sat in on the call but held off because the q-and-a was on background; now the entire transcript — including the part about the q-and-a being on background — is online on Microsoft.com. I’m not sure what ons about the company’s strategy and delivery schedule under wraps. If you’re interested in Microsoft’s roadmap for IPTV, make the time to read it or listen to the webcast. Both can be found here. I can only scratch the surface.
Lichtman’s status report: “We are on track for delivering the platform commercially at the end of this calendar year. The platform is in trials across all of these customers that have been announced. The feedback from customers has been very positive across the board, both in terms of the quality of the product, in terms of the reliability and the preparedness for their deployments.
I know there’s been quite a bit of confusion recently about the capabilities. There were questions about the number of channels. So I can say that this platform supports, from day one, hundreds of channels. There were questions about capabilities, whether it’s standard definition or high definition. I’d say that the platform supports all those capabilities from day one. There were questions about digital video recording. I’d say that the platform supports those capabilities from day one. There were questions about streaming to multiple TV’s in the home. I’d say that the platform supports that from day one.” He cited SBC’s plans for a “controlled commercial release” by late 2005/early 2006, with scaled deployments to follow and said that Microsoft’s heard similar timing plans from other customers, adding, “we have no reason to doubt that this is indeed, going to be the case.”
— Lichtman downplayed any suggestions that delays of a month or two should be seen as major issues. “… for the sake of perspective it’s taken video on-demand 13 years to get to where it is today, in a usable and mass market form, from the times that the MSOs started their video-on-demand trials in Florida in the early 90’s… We’re looking at deploying the platforms that are much broader than video-on-demand, less than two years after it’s been announced. So a month here or there, I wouldn’t pay that much attention to that type of a shift. This is a very complex puzzle; sometimes it takes a little longer for the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.”
— Lichtman attributes Swisscom’s change of plans to hardware, not software, specifically a desire to launch with a set-top that has a built-in hard drive and is laggin in terms of delivery. He said Telstra’s issues also were separate from Microsoft and “that Telstra was very adamant that they are continuing to work with Microsoft, and when they are ready to entertain the IPTV deployment again, which they’ve said is absolutely the right thing for a telco to do, Microsoft would be one of the primary platforms that they will look at.”
— As for Microsoft’s software, he said, “… We are in stabilization and ship mode. So basically it’s bug fixing, it’s getting the type of feedback from our customers and making sure that all of those are baked into the final release.” Lichtman also described Microsoft’s testing in response to a question about releasing unstable products.
— On Xbox, Media Center and IPTV: “We said in the past that we see IPTV getting baked into every consumer electronics device. And obviously both Xbox and the Media Center Edition PC are two such examples of where this technology will get baked …”
— Lichtman said there are “a whole bunch of others that have not announced their engagements with Microsoft. This is something that will happen over the coming months.” He said to expect more announcements from Europe and “down the road similar momentum in Asia.”