Europe sets pace for next generation multimedia

An historic agreement on the technical specification for the next generation of online and multimedia services for the home was reached in Geneva last week between some of the Europe's leading computer and communications groups.

Although technically a European agreement, the accord of the Digital Video Broadcasting steering committee has wider international implications because significant American companies like IBM, Intel and Microsoft are signatories to the agreement through their European divisions. This is significant, as it places pressure on the rival US-backed Advanced Television Systems Committee, and increases the likelihood that the DVB standard will emerge as a world standard.

The DVB accord sets out a technical specification and platform for the next generation of multimedia black boxes to provide interactive services into the home. Various black boxes are under development from a variety of players interested in interactive services into the home, from cable and satellite companies to web TV companies - all now have a common standard to aim at. Big European names like Philips of the Netherlands, BT of the UK, Canal Plus from France, and Kirch from Germany, have joined with the European divisions of American giants Intel, Microsoft, and Intel to support the DVB platform and its associated Application Programming Interface (API).