The announcement of a global alliance between Microsoft and Alcatel marks the transition of the idea of delivering television over data networks out of the lab and onto another level.

“If IPTV was in first gear before, we have just shifted into at least third,” said Moshe Lichtman, corporate vice president of the Microsoft TV Division.

Microsoft TV will become Alcatel’s preferred software partner, while Alcatel will be Microsoft’s preferred partner for network access and systems integration. “We have complementary skills and this agreement is a classic win-win,” said Lichtman. “This is a precedent-setting alliance for the industry that will create a whole new dynamic that we expect will propel the industry forward.”

The man responsible for Microsoft’s television division argued that the agreement will positively impact both the IPTV industry and broadband providers worldwide. “By pooling our respective efforts together we are able to address the needs of more customers quicker, and to accelerate ecosystem initiatives on a global scale.” He added that “We have just jump-started economies of scale that simply didn’t exist before.”

He suggested that the fact that SBC, BellSouth and Telecom Italia saw value in working with both companies demonstrates the complementary nature of what Microsoft and Alcatel have to offer. “This agreement was ultimately driven by our shared IPTV vision and our commitment to seeing that vision realized.”

Anticipating any possible concern about market dominance, Microsoft is quick to emphasize that its partnership with Alcatel would produce benefits across the industry, from broadband service providers to chipset, encoder and set-top vendors, to content owners to consumers.

“IPTV is moving pretty fast already, but this alliance between Microsoft and Alcatel will speed things up even further and accelerate deployments with the operators around the world that we’re working with,” said Lichtman. “In the end, that benefits everyone involved in the IPTV industry.”