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Analysis Microsoft may have continuing problems on the home front where AT&T slowly grinds out its IPTV rollout, but in France it is winning plaudits.

T-Online France has been installing IPTV at its Club Internet subsidiary using Microsoft software and says it has been ranked number one in features by both benchmarking organizations ip-label and Witbe, and voted as the system with the best features by Journal du Net, there.

In the latest report from ip-label, Club Internet was ranked above the five leading IPTV providers including Orange, Tele2, Neuf, Alice, and Free. The ip-label benchmark ranks service providers according to service availability, quality of image, percentage of video flux, channel “zapping” time, broadcast video delay and overall quality. Witbe ranked it best in class for TV service availability, channel zapping time, quality of TV image, and image stability.

T-Online France also said it had conducted a research study last year which showed that 80 per cent customers would recommend the service to their friends and that 70 per cent have chosen the triple play bundle and 32 per cent choose to pay for special interest TV channels.

To a certain extent we have to take these finding with a pinch of salt, in that every organization, once they have overcome the challenges of getting an IPTV service out of the door, then need to focus on acquiring customers and marketing the benefits of the service.

Report card

Far more worrying are the constant leaks to the press in the US from AT&T executives, bemoaning poor software from Microsoft that cannot carry out the specification of the services that it wants to offer its customers, and the worryingly low numbers of US take up, last released at around 7,000.

We have even heard rumors of an AT&T “secret lab” that is working on an alternative series of technologies so that the Microsoft system can be replaced at the drop of a hat, but no-one will go on the record about it.

We spoke this week to Andreas Mueller-Schubert, general manager of MSTV global solutions, the organization that manages IPTV clients for Microsoft. “You have to remember that the AT&T installation is very different, far more challenging than any other IPTV market. It offers 450 TV channels with a high number of them being High Definition.”

“It is the same code base, the same software, but in the US there is a high requirement for more TVs to be supported per household, and the competition for Pay TV there is more intense,” he told us. The Microsoft message these days is definitively more about winning friends that contracts, and Ed Gracyzk, director of marketing at Microsoft IPTV was keynoting the Connected Home conference in London this week, and released details from a recent survey the company had just carried out.

“We asked 7,000 people in 9 countries to rate 22 features of IPTV, and what they told us is that they want more detail in the management and control of the service. They want whole home DVR, multiview and VoD services and an easier program guide,” he said.

Microsoft arranged features into clusters such as a feature set it calls Communication, which offers program recommendation, caller ID on the TV screen and on screen instant messaging; or one it calls Commerce, which allows them to order songs, buy DVDs and limits them to targeted advertising, and then asked them to choose which feature they would like in an IPTV service.

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