French challenge Microsoft

France Telecom's Orange is leading a carrier coalition to establish a standard for the critical software that connects rich media devices to the home. The consortium is a direct challenge to the current market leader, Microsoft's Mediaroom. Mediaroom is the leading IPTV platform for home set top boxes and consoles and has been sold to 20 carriers globally seeking to deploy IPTV. The new consortium is to be known as Soft at Home and its stated aim is to "create and promote a software platform to simplify and accelerate the adoption of residential digital services."

Orange said it wants to create an industry standard and is proposing to sell down its shareholding to enable other carriers to be part of the consortium.  Orange Labs director Georges Penalver told news services: "We are aiming to develop a standard for the industry. And our standards will respond better to the needs of telecoms operators than others. If we do nothing, we will face a segmented market with different standards in different countries and that would be an industrial waste."

Other parties to the consortium are Thomson and Sagem Communications. Both are current suppliers to Orange. Thomson supplies the Livebox home gateway and the SmartVision IPTV middleware. Sagem supplies IP set-top boxes for the carrier's IPTV service. Orange owns 60 percent of Soft at Home and the other two 20 percent each. The consortium will employ between 70 and 80 staff by the end of 2008 and says it has "a global development ambition, and is looking to rapidly welcome new partners into its capital."

France is the leading IPTV nation in the world with 1.3 million users. Orange's sponsorship of the carrier coalition comes as CE manufactures, software houses, computer vendors and game console makers are pushing to become the dominant platform for the delivery of internet and rich IP services to the home. Controlling this platform and the home hub is seen as critical for carriers if they want a share of the next generation services and not be left as a simple transport utility.

For more:
- Orange, Thomson and Sagem Communications are creating Soft At Home Release
- Soft At Home to give Microsoft Mediaroom a hard time Article

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