AT&T Picks Liberate for Interactive TV Pilot

After weeks of speculation, AT&T Broadband
Thursday looked over Microsoft
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

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.

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