BT Vision is apparently preparing to drop the Microsoft Mediaroom platform and put in place a browser-based replacement running on Linux. The migration away from Mediaroom would be an embarrassment for Microsoft, which developed a special variant to cater for the BT Vision hybrid broadcast and broadband service. BT is a partner in the planned YouView platform, which also specifies a Linux operating system.

Microsoft created Mediaroom as a platform for IPTV or internet protocol television services, aimed at top tier telcos. BT was an early customer. Others include Deutsche Telekom and AT&T. With more than eight million households through over 40 operators, it is one of the most widely deployed commercial IPTV middleware platforms.

Launched in December 2006, originally aiming for millions of customers, BT Vision had 679,000 users at the end of 2011. Swapping out the middleware nevertheless represents a significant migration challenge, comparable to switching from Microsoft Windows to Linux.

The rationale for the move is likely to be related to YouView, the joint venture in which BT and TalkTalk are partners, together with Arqiva and the main British public service broadcasters.

The YouView specification is based on a number of open source software components and includes Linux as a standard device operating system. In theory this could provide a degree of interoperability across legacy BT Vision customers and new YouView boxes, although the main YouView user interface is based on Adobe Flash.

The replacement browser and middleware stack to be adopted by BT Vision is from Oregan Networks, while Massive Interactive has developed the user interface, incorporating a recommendation system from The Filter, reports Rethink Research.

Oregan Networks is a London-based company with which has developed the Onyx Media Browser, which combines support for digital terrestrial television with online video services and includes a DLNA server and player. Customers of Oregan Networks include Sony. MediaCorp in Singapore selected the company for its forthcoming service in November 2011.

Massive Interactive is an Australian company with office in London. Among other things it worked with Telstra on its T-Box platform. Chris Alner was appointed as their managing director for the United Kingdom in June 2011, having previously been head of business development at BT Vision.

The Filter, based in Bath, was founded by musician Peter Gabriel and software entrepreneur Martin Hopkins, originally based on a system designed to manage music collections. Its relevance platform now optimizes the search, navigation and discovery of media for a number of customers, including NBC.

Originally proposed back in October 2008 as project Canvas, YouView has been a long time in development. It is supposed to launch in “early 2012”. Given the involvement of BT, one of the many questions surrounding YouView is where it will leave the BT Vision and its customer base. Having taken BT Vision five years to reach around 700,000 homes, it will be interesting to see how long it takes YouView to match that figure.