RealTime IT News

AT&T Picks Liberate for Interactive TV Pilot

After weeks of speculation, AT&T Broadband Thursday looked over Microsoft Corp.'s shoulder when it licensed Liberate Technology Inc.'s software to deliver advanced interactive TV services.

AT&T said it would pipe Liberate's TV Platform® application through the Motorola DCT-5000 set-top box in a pilot to start late this year. If successful, the companies would deploy advanced interactive TV services commercially.

AT&T cited Liberate's quality, dedication to open standards and track record as the main reasons for going with the interactive software leader. Liberate enables a variety of interactive features, including e-mail, chat, enhanced television, and destination sites formatted for the television.

"The Liberate platform will help us offer a wide variety of interactive services we know our customers are waiting for, and that cost effectively utilize our two way network infrastructure that is already providing digital cable and high speed data," said Daniel E. Somers, president and chief executive officer, AT&T Broadband.

Although Microsoft pumped about $5 billion into AT&T last year, the communications giant made it clear that it was looking at a multivendor scenario. It should not necessarily be viewed as a slap in the face, however.

Microsoft had agreed last year to supply the software for 7.5 million of AT&T's possible 10 million interactive TV set-top boxes. Insiders have suggested Microsoft has been slower than expected in rolling out their interactive TV software.

This isn't the first time the software giant has been beaten to the punch. A week and a half ago, European cable TV firm United Pan-Europe Communications, agreed to use Liberate's software for its digital TV service.

That play came a month after UPC chief executive Mark Schneider said the Amsterdam-based company may be forced to use software from rivals of Microsoft, which was slow in delivering its product. Microsoft commands an 8 percent stake in UPC.

Delivering digital TV to almost 16 million viewers, AT&T Broadband is the nation's largest broadband services company. All this comes in addition to it's crop of high-speed cable Internet and competitive local phone services.