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Orange, Sagem, Thomson JV to impose home networking standard
|21 февраля 2008|
Orange is joining forces with Thomson and Sagem to create a home networking middleware company.
The move is designed to force a standard software interface for burgeoning home networking applications upon other equipment manufacturers and operators.
"Thomson is number one worldwide in gateways, Sagem is number one worldwide in decoders and [Orange] is number one worldwide in installed [set-top box and IPTV] base," said Georges Penalver, executive director in charge of strategic marketing and Orange's Technocentre. "We have what is needed to develop a de-facto standard."
In France, Orange had 1.1 million IPTV customers and 5.2 million Livebox subscribers at the end of 2007.
The new company, called "Soft at Home", will be 60% owned by France Telecom, 20% owned by Thomson and 20% by Sagem, and it will employ a few dozen people, said Penalver.
Soft at Home will sell software licences to operators and manufacturers, but its main goal is to bring down equipment development costs, Penalver explained.
"We will make a minimum profit, but the objective is not necessarily to make a lot of profit, but to have a widely deployed standard," said Penalver. As a result the cost of the software licence will be "a handful of euros," he added.
To date, operators and manufacturers have taken a fragmented approach to developing home networking and IPTV services, equipment and software, which has prevented the industry developing large economies of scale. As a result equipment prices stay high for both operators and consumers, said Penalver.
"It's an atomised market [broken down] country by country, and operator by operator, with [software and hardware] prices that won't come down," he said.
Although the shareholders of the company are all French, the venture is keen to avoid "the Minitel" effect and establish a global presence, said Penalver, referring to the country's national public information network, popular in the 1990s. Penalver stressed that participation is open to other companies.
Indeed Soft at Home is already in discussions with a number of players, said Penalver, notably in China and Northern Europe.
Nevertheless, Soft at Home has heavyweight competitors, including Microsoft.
"Of course," Penalver replied, when asked if Soft at Home wanted to beat Microsoft. "It has a standard it wants to impose… these standards need to converge with operators' needs... What we're trying to do is listen better to operators."
The middleware platform will be based on existing software developed by the three companies, and is open to tweaks, within reason.
"A customer can influence [the standard] and ask for a modification. If… in China it doesn't work like that… we can introduce a variant… if it is not incompatible with [what is] in place," said Penalver.
The company will also compete "by being cheaper," said Bruno Fabre, director of sales and marketing, systems division, at Thomson.
The first version of the middleware will be available in the second half of 2008.
Источник: Total Telecom