Whenever people ask me what I work on at Microsoft, it always takes some time explaining.
I joined Microsoft TV here in Silicon Valley two years ago working on the Microsoft TV Foundation Edition. It's a platform for cable providers such as Comcast to provide an interactive television experience with a Guide, Video on Demand, Search and DVR. In particular, I was responsible for the search feature that allows you to search for movies by actor, title, keyword. Unfortunately, even though my work made it into version 1.9 and 2.0, those versions were never deployed (and might not be anytime soon in the US).
Well, a little bit less than a year ago, I've switched over to the Microsoft IPTV product, which is a end-to-end platform that allows traditional telephone companies (telco) to enter the TV market by providing a full TV experience using IP technologies. It's like Voice over IP just for your good old television. Now, people always get confused and ask how we can compete with YouTube or Joost. Well, Microsoft IPTV is not competing with that, because that's something entirely different. IPTV is not watching video on your monitor over the internet using your computer. What our product does is to watch live TV and on-demand video on your good-old TV via set top boxes that transfer data via internet protocol.
Providers such as AT&T here in the United States stream those videos via DSL modems in HD-quality using our software. Given the IP's flexibility, you can imagine the endless possibilities that IP-based TV can offer versus traditional TV: interactivity (vote on your American Idol from your TV), unlimited amount of channels (since only one stream is sent to your box), picture in picture or multi view (watch a baseball game from three different angles), share media with friends and family (share images from your computer directly to your TV, or send them to your mom's TV in another state), chatting, home shopping, games, etc, etc, etc. In other words, it's the best in TV plus all your media in one place -- and that is our division's new slogan.
Our IPTV division went through a huge rebranding this past month. Our product is now called "Microsoft Mediaroom" and it's an ingredient brand for other telcos. The same way Dolby Digital or THX are ingredient brands for movies, Bluetooth ingredient brand for cellphones or EnergyStar is an ingredient brand for electronics, Microsoft Mediaroom is an ingredient brand for TV providers. We finally have a website geared towards the end-consumer (previously we only had marketing material geared for the telcos only). Check it out yourself on www.microsoftmediaroom.com and see what all the buzz is about.
Next time you sign up for TV service, ask for Microsoft Mediaroom and you might be seeing some of the features that I have worked on. In particular that would be Emergency Alert System (those "warning, there's a thunderstorm coming to your area" messages with R2D2-like sounds), Download and Play (the ability to download a high-quality Video-on-Demand assets over a low-bandwidth connection) and the notification messages (for instance the notification that displays caller ID info when someone calls your home while you watch TV), HDMI connections and of course a lot of bug fixes in all other areas. I think the really cool thing is that I work on a product that touch thousands and thousands of people every day. Our product is already deployed in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Singapore, China, South Africa, Hungary--you name it. Many of the end-consumers don't even know it's Microsoft software driving this technology end-to-end, but if you happen to know, realize that those buttons that you click might as well be executing my code. 🙂