Opera powers broadband TV decoder

IP-based television broadcasting is just getting started, and Opera Software is bidding to be a part of the new industry with a Japanese deal

Browser maker Opera Software is going on the telly.

The company has established a foothold in a technology that some analysts see as a major emerging force in the next few years: television delivered over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, or IPTV. The Opera browser will be used in an interactive TV box from Plat'C2, a player in the Japanese IPTV industry, Opera said this week.

The deal is part of Opera's ongoing drive to put the browser into all sorts of non-PC devices, including smartphones such as Sony Ericsson's P800. Microsoft's Internet Explorer thoroughly dominates the PC desktop, but so-called embedded devices are seen as more open to competition.

In Plat'C2's Broadband Terminal Box, Opera will act as middleware, presenting all applications and menus in HTML, Java and CSS (cascading style sheets). The small fanless device, about the size and shape of a home smoke detector, is designed to decode MPEG-2 video streams from an ADSL or FTTH (fibre to the home) broadband connection. The BT Box PCC-1000 includes a high-speed MPEG-2 decoder chip, a 10/100Mbps network jack and a D3/D4 jack -- a high-quality connector used in Japanese televisions.

The browser includes a spatial navigation feature, which allows Web navigation via direction-arrows, and lets users type emails or fill in Web forms via a numeric keypad.

The financial terms of the Opera deal were not disclosed.

IPTV is a still-nascent technology which uses low-cost IP networks to deliver television signals that can be better than DVD quality. More than 30 telcos are already delivering such services, and many more are taking a wait-and-see approach to the technology, according to a recent report from Strategy Analytics. Leading markets for IPTV are expected to be Asia and Europe.

"IPTV technologies can significantly reduce market entry and operational costs for new broadband television service providers," said Peter King, director of Global Broadband Practice at Strategy Analytics, in a recent statement. "They must now address the challenge of winning the support of content owners." The company said media providers are particularly concerned to ensure that their content is protected from piracy before they release it on an IP network.

Strategy Analytics projected that a mere 110,000 homes around the world would be connected to IPTV this year, but said the number would grow to more than 20 million by 2008.

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