'Proper' TV over the net from microsoft

Wireless home

microsoft boss Bill Gates has promised software that will deliver both ‘standard’ and ‘high definition’ television to consumers TV sets via broadband Internet connections. However the majority of Britons with broadband won’t be able to tune in as their connections are too slow.

In a speech at the ITU Telecom World in Geneva on Monday, Gates said that the software and the device need to decode it would be available by the end of 2004.

The system, which will work using Windows Media player 9, requires an Internet connection of 1 Megabit per second (Mb/s). High definition TV will be offered if a consumer has a broadband Web connection that allows four to five Mb/s.

In the UK the vast majority of broadband connections are 512Kb/s. Cable companies Telewest and NTL both offer 1meg connections as does independent provider Bulldog. BT is hoping to offer 1 meg ADSL service to customer next year.

microsoft said Internet television should be cheaper to bring to consumers than current cable TV which is transmitted over a separate video network with MPEG compression technology and that a set top box to receive and decode Internet TV could cost as little as $50 in four years time. Not surprisingly set-top box makers including the UK’s own Britain’s Pace mîcro Technology, will work to develop the boxes. The Internet TV system could also be incorporate into convergence products that feature DVD players, games consoles, hard disk based video recorders etc.

Analysts have suggested that breaking into markets like this one is crucial for microsoft. The software giant has been spending huge sums of money on researching new areas. Among its recent innovations are the Media Center XP (a consumer-friendly entertainment oriented operating system for PCs), Windows Mobile 2003 (an operating system for smartphones) and SPOT (a technology that streams data to devices like watches over FM frequencies).

We think that the software will provide an excellent opportunity for cable operators in the UK who already offer connections of the speed required by the system. They will be able to save money by ditching the extra MPEG2 video box users require to see conventional digital TV.

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