Espial's states that its new server based IPTV middleware package was designed to provide fast response. It was also designed for easy porting to new set-top boxes through the use of a portability layer through that isolates the specifics of the hardware. Espial quotes the following performance improvements for its software compared to browser based software:
- EPG Load Time 0.1 secs (Espial) 4.5 secs (Browser)
- Navigating between visible programs in EPG 0.1 secs (Espial) 0.2 secs (Browser)
- Navigating to a non-visible program in EPG 0.2 secs (Espial) 1.9 secs (Browser)
- Scrolling 100 channels in EPG Guide 12 secs (Espial) 181 secs (Browser)
Espial states that this server based middleware software is quite scalable and would require about 35 servers to support 1 million subscribers. Microsoft told us that its software would require 600 servers to support 1 million subscribers. Espial's current middleware deployments are to two small providers today, so it does not support any large deployments with its server based middleware package today.
Espial also provides a middleware package that operates completely in the set-top box without a requirement for servers support. NTT with more than 200 thousand IPTV subscribers is using this software.
Espial is selling its middleware software to tier 1 service providers globally.
Espial appears to have a good system. Its scalability, performance, and customizability are all important to both large and small IPTV service providers. It still has to prove itself in a large deployment. Today, only Cascade at PCCW, Thomson at France Telecom, Lucent at Telefonica, and Siemens at Belgacom are selling packages that are actually supporting more than 100 thousand subscribers. Swisscom is Microsoft's largest deployment which has recently reached 20 thousand subscribers, so Microsoft has to prove that it can support a large deployment as well.
Espial's Tier 1 strategy is a tough one for a small company. Microsoft has received most of the orders from these carriers recently. Microsoft will be difficult to beat assuming when it proves its ability to scale.