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Thomson dusts off MaLigne software

Merges it with VoIP platform

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Thomson has polished up the SmartVision IPTV middleware it acquired from Thales last year, and put it together with VoIP technology and claims it is the world’s first integrated triple play engine.

It seems all the rage to take middleware that was written for a single vendor (Imagenio from Telefonica for instance) and turn it into a package and now the system that sits behind France Telecom’s MaLigne TV is coming to market.

Faultline said at IBC this year that the last thing the world needs is another IPTV middleware package as there are now about 30 on the market.

The acquisition cost Thomson around €130m ($155m) at the time, and gave it capabilities in video-on-demand, mobile TV content delivery and management, video-over-IP test and measurement technology and quality of service (QOS) analysis tools for mobile TV.

So expect Thomson to use the service to catapult the company into the next generation of IPTV services, offering content from the same sources in different formats for TVs, PCs and handsets, delivered over a variety of wireless and fixed networks.

Thomson at the Broadband World Forum Europe was making it clear that it can now merge broadcast systems, head-end encoders from its Grass Valley company, its own compression technology, remote management systems, ad insertion systems, IP-enabled set-top boxes, and home gateways to its Cirpack VoIP Softswitch it acquired last April.

Thomson said last week it would pre-integrate its back end service delivery platforms so that operators can add sophisticated voice and video features which interact and are aware of each other over DSL networks.

You would think that after all the delay that has been associated over the past two years with triple play services that there might be a substantial appeal for a complete triple play that comes pre-integrated.

But since all of the offerings that Thomson has acquired happen to be French, we think it is unlikely that there will be a sudden list of new telco customers outside of France for these systems.

In fact, Thomson's approach of integrating softswitch and IPTV middleware function via a single service delivery platform means that when a customer already has VoIP, it will have to "unbundle" the software, to service them.

Thomson says that SmartVision TV service offers live TV with picture in picture, video on demand, network personal video recording, and that Cirpack adds caller ID on TV for incoming calls, browsing of call history with click to dial, activating call forwarding, configuring black lists or selecting musical ring back tones on the TV.

It can even turn the TV screen into a unified messaging centre for voice mail, video mail, SMS and e-mail, which we think has been the Microsoft Alcatel convergence message all along, so it appears to have arrived at this product set a good two years too late in our view, but with a customer the size of France Telecom, it may catch up.

Thomson says the same core network platforms can manage mobile devices for telephony such as dual mode WiFi-GSM phones and mobile video devices such as 3G phones or DVB-H receivers.

About the time of the sale of Smartvision to Thomson there were rumours that France Telecom was about to capitulate and embark on a path to switch to the Microsoft Alcatel IPTV route, and pressure from those quarters may well have been what drove the sale by Thales to put it in the hands of a company that may be more willing drive forward its feature set.

Copyright © 2006, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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