While IPTV services once comprised basic video-on-demand offerings, a number of providers are now looking to offer more advanced applications.According to Stephen Petheram, Microsoft Mediaroom’s (IBC Topaz) director of media services for EMEA and APAC, operators are looking to applications to differentiate their services from their rivals: “TV applications are seen as a key competitive advantage for IPTV operators, enabling them to deliver new and exciting interactive experiences,” says Petheram.Microsoft developed the Mediaroom Presentation Framework to help operators develop various personalised services. “New ways to converge and connect are constantly being developed and consumers expect to be able to access media in a number of ways. Service providers need to make sure that the TV is at the centre of this experience,” says Petheram. Consumers are showing an appetite for on-demand viewing across all platforms and Petheram believes IPTV operators should develop applications to drive consumer interest in this area.For Richard Baker, vice-president of sales and marketing at ANT, operators are showing strong interest in portal services, such as widgets and walled garden applications covering various content. “These applications and services help increase ARPU and reduce churn for operators, while presenting an opportunity to differentiate from the competition,” he says. ANT launched the ANT Academy this year, which aims to bring digital TV developers together to create applications to run on its Galio platform, and developed an online resource that provides forums, sample code and technical specs to help members develop to the company’s standards-based platform.Tandberg’s (IBC 1.D61) IPTV business development director Alan Delaney argues that a standards-based, open environment drives down cost and lead times of developing IPTV services. He points to the company’s OpenStream digital services platform: “OpenStream is based on open, published interfaces, which means operators can deploy using VOD servers, networks, billing systems, client applications, conditional access systems and other system components of their own choice.”Applicatons provider Accedo Broadband’s (IBC IP126) CEO Michael Lantz believes the current economic situation means that using applications to generate customer loyalty and increase revenues is becoming increasingly relevant. “At this time of recession, it important to actually be able to prove the value of an application to the end user or to the service provider. Applications have to either generate revenue directly or stimulate loyalty and reduce churn.” At IBC, Accedo will launch a range of high-definition games for IPTV operators, which Lantz says are the first full HD games available for IPTV.ActiveVideo Networks (IBC 5.B46) provides cloud-based interactive TV platforms and applications. Edgar Villalpando, senior vice-president of marketing, says service providers realise that web video viewing on the PC is eroding their market share and the value propositions of their video bundles. “They’re investing more time and money finding ways that the can generate new revenue from PC viewing or, better yet, give subscribers the experience they desire at the TV.” The company helps operators to deliver applications from games and home-shopping to user-generated content.A corollary of offering advanced applications to users is that they need to be able to interact with the screen. Remote control specialist Ruwido (IBC 1.D68) develops various solutions to make the process easier. “Our focus is on the new forms of interaction techniques that will be used in the living room in the near future,” says Dr Regina Bernhaupt, head of user experience research. The company believes so strongly in the future of interactivity that it has created a “usability lab devoted to developing solutions that “allow us to understand the real needs of the user”, according to Bernhaupt. “We want to bring people closer to the product, and bring people closer together,” she says. The company has developed a “social communication solution” that allows people to communicate whilst watching TV that it will show at IBC.