Microsoft open to talks with Sky TV re content alliance

Premium Sky content on MS devices on display for Tech Ed audience

Microsoft NZ has 'opened the conversation' with Sky TV on forming a commercial alliance with the broadcaster on delivering premium content over Microsoft’s devices in New Zealand.

Microsoft web development advisor Nigel Parker used footage of All Black rugby matches during a live demonstration of multiple Microsoft platforms at the opening keynote session a Microsoft’s Tech.Ed conference today. Attended by 2,500 developers, vendors, partners and users, this is the fifteenth year the conference has been held in New Zealand.

Parker demonstrated the use of Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing solution to retrieve Sky TV rugby footage and display it on Microsoft’s Surface — a kind of interactive tabletop. The video clips were then transferred onto a Windows 7 mobile device (to be released later this year). Parker had witnessed a similar demonstration in Australia using FOXTEL footage and approached Sky TV to participate in the demo for this year’s Auckland keynote.

He says there is no commercial deal between the two companies but that it “opens the door for conversations”.

Microsoft NZ managing director Paul Muckleston says it was the first time he had seen the demonstration. He says that opening up digital content while protecting intellectual property rights is a key challenge, especially as consumers now expect free, available content following the popularity of ubiquitous websites such as YouTube. He says that the Microsoft Surface device, which has a price tag of around $20,000, will be in New Zealand in the next month with deals currently being negotiated. He wouldn’t say what companies are interested locally, but says in Australia Microsoft Surface has been bought by casinos and airline lounges.

Earlier Muckleston hosted a breakfast panel discussion led by journalists Fran O’Sullivan and Rod Oram, with NZICT Brett O’Riley and head of NZ Global Women Jenny Shipley on how New Zealand can lift itself out of the recession.

Women in IT

Of the 2500 attending TechEd, only 10 percent are women. Muckleston says the company is actively involved in encouraging more women into IT and that this can involve something simple as changing a job title.

He says the company recently changed the title of employees that act as go-betweens for large customers and Microsoft from technical account managers to service delivery managers and experienced a fourfold increase in applications from women.

The poetic age of technology

Keynote speaker August de los Reyes, a principal design manager at Windows and the former user experience director Microsoft Surface, adopted a philosophical approach to explaining the evolution of the design and development disciplines. He says they are merging to such a degree that ‘devigner’ has been coined, although he personally dislikes the term.

de los Reyes says that vertical hierarchies are giving way to horizontal structures in software, and designers need to look to the arts and social science disciplines as they create new technology solutions. He says we are entering “the poetic age of technology.”

Kiwi innovation

During the keynote session delegates were shown footage of the OneBeep team at the Imagine Cup in Poland, where they competed with a solution which delivers educational data over radio waves for use in developing economies. The four Auckland University students gained third place and received prize money of $20,000.

Team leader Vinny Jeet says that since the Cup, they’ve been approached by government officials from Portugal, Argentina and the Solomon Islands. Once the academic year is complete the OneBeep team is hoping to travel to the Solomon Islands and begin rolling out the first deployment of their technology.

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