France Telecom venture to rival Microsoft

Three top French telecoms technology groups, France Telecom , Sagem Communications and Thomson, launched a software joint venture that aims to compete with US giant Microsoft, a Reuters report said.

The Reuters report said the venture, called Soft At Home, helps improve communications between set-top boxes, television sets, phones and other electronics devices.

Its ambition is to set an industry standard and license the software to telecoms operators around the world, the companies said.

They will seek to challenge Microsoft which has made a big push in IPTV over the past two years and licensed its Mediaroom software to operators such as AT&T , BT Group , Deutsche Telekom and Bell Canada, the Reuters report said.

France Telecom, which trades mainly under the Orange brand, declined to say how much it had invested in the venture but said its total budget would support a business of between 70 to 80 staff, the report addd.

The new business will be controlled by France Telecom through a 60% stake with the balance equally shared between Thomson and Sagem Communications, a unit spun out of French conglomerate Safran earlier this year, the Reuters report added.

The new open-source software is to be commercially launched in France in the third or fourth quarter of this year and rolled out in other countries after that.

The software's applications will range from viewing computer-stored photos on TV to answering phone calls with a remote control, the report further said.