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Commentary: UltimateTV tunes in to success

The triumph of Microsoft's UltimateTV hinges on the software giant's ability to establish partnerships with a major satellite provider and cable operators.

By Van Baker, Gartner Analyst

The worldwide interactive TV market features a battle among OpenTV, Liberate Technologies and Microsoft, with OpenTV already dominant in Europe and the market in the rest of the world still up for grabs.

Major success for Microsoft's UltimateTV will

See news story:
Microsoft's ultimate challenge in interactive TV
hinge on the software giant's ability to establish a partnership with one major satellite provider and two of the major cable operators in the United States, and to capture a 25 percent or greater share of U.S. set-top box deployments. The establishment of these partnerships without broad deployment of the technology will spell moderate success--while leaving the door open for many competing alternatives.

To its credit, Microsoft understands that interactive television is first and foremost about making television a more rewarding entertainment experience. This means much more than accessing the Internet through a television, and Microsoft understands this simple fact. The first implementation of UltimateTV addresses many of the shortcomings of the initial digital video recorder (DVR) architecture in making television viewing more convenient and entertaining.

The two-tuner implementation of the Ultimate TV set-top box addresses one of the concerns of consumers who adopted TiVo or Replay TV--namely, you can watch one program while recording another one. This feature also enables consumers to record two programs at the same time, eliminating potential programming conflicts between members of a household. This feature--an area in which Microsoft has the lead and a focus of its advertising--will likely be duplicated by other providers because of its promising consumer appeal.

Although the program guides are similar among the three platforms, the UltimateTV platform offers some extended features that are a bit more esoteric and that will have appeal to technically advanced users. These include the capture of Web sites linked to programming and pop-up interactive options.

(For related commentary on streaming media in the enterprise, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

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