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Microsoft Strengthens TV Offerings

Microsoft Corp. has been a busy at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) 2000 in Amsterdam Friday.

Brushing aside rumors that deployment of its Microsoft TV Technologies would be delayed, the company unveiled a series of Microsoft TV partnerships and programs -- including an alliance with set-top box manufacturer Royal Philips Electronics and a deal with SCM Microsystems Inc..

The Microsoft TV platform will operate a range of TV-centric appliances from set-top boxes to integrated televisions. The platform supports multiplayer gaming, interactive content, shopping, e-mail, chat and instant messaging, pay-per-view, video-on-demand, personalized advertising, Internet access and home networking. It consists of a family of five solutions for delivering Enhanced TV services to both current- and next-generation set-top boxes and integrated TV devices.

For home users, the platform includes:

  • Microsoft TV Advanced -- client software for advanced set-top boxes which allows network operators to deliver a complete broadband and Enhanced TV experience
  • Microsoft TV Basic Digital -- allows Enhanced TV services to be delivered to the current generation of set-top boxes based on digital cable, satellite and terrestrial networks
  • Microsoft TV Technologies -- a set of software components for PC-architected entertainment appliances which enable Enhanced TV applications and services on PC-based appliances.

The company said Microsoft TV Technologies would be made available in select future versions of its Windows Operating System. Microsoft also said the software's new broadcast driver architecture will simplify the implementation of broadcast solutions on the Windows platform and will provide a standard for integration between television and DVD applications and the underlying transport. The technologies include support for broadcast and streaming video, audio and data; content protection; ATVEF interactive content and programming; and digital video and audio recording.

"A new breed of PC appliances is emerging aimed at home entertainment rather than workplace productivity," said Jon DeVaan, senior vice president of the TV Division at Microsoft . "With extra multimedia functionality such as DVD players and digital media jukeboxes, these new appliances are far more likely to be found in the living room than the office. Microsoft TV Technologies will enable consumers to take advantage of Enhanced TV on these types of devices in addition to set-top boxes and TV sets."

For cable operators and hardware manufacturers, the platform offers:

  • Microsoft TV Server -- a head-end solution designed to be the foundation of a network operator's services; it provides the tools to provision, manage and operate a large-scale, commercial-grade Enhanced TV service integrated with Microsoft TV Advanced
  • Microsoft TV Access Channel Server -- software which offers network operators a flexible and cost-effective head-end solution for delivering Internet services and Windows-based multimedia content to current-generation digital set-top boxes.

Microsoft said it has broad support in its TV endeavors, with more than 1,000 companies now active participants in the Microsoft TV Partner Programs. In addition, it said it has commitments for 15 million set-top boxes running the software platform to be deployed worldwide, including from TV Cabo in Portugal, NTL Group Ltd. in the U.K., United Pan-Europe Communications in the Netherlands and AT&T Broadband in the U.S.

Netherlands-based Philips Electronics , one of the world's largest set-top box suppliers, will be one of the companies making those set-top boxes. Philips Friday agreed to license Microsoft TV software and work with the company to develop a range of se