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Comcast, Time Warner Cable to trial Microsoft TV software

Sun, 07/20/2003 - 8:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner

Microsoft TV has scored two more points for its suite of set-top software, notching its first field trial commitment from Time Warner Cable and its second with Comcast Corp.

Comcast has agreed to a "limited trial" of the Microsoft TV Interactive Program Guide (IPG) this fall in Seattle, where the MSO has deployed Motorola Broadband-made DCT2000 digital set-tops. Gemstar-TV Guide International is the market's incumbent provider of IPG technology.

It will mark Microsoft TV's second set-top software trial with Comcast. In June, Comcast said it agreed to test the Microsoft's "Foundation Edition" platform this fall. Comcast will also test Foundation in Seattle, which happens to also be close to Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond.

The new Comcast trials are not directly linked to previous agreements between Microsoft TV and AT&T Broadband, said Ed Graczyk, Microsoft TV's director of marketing. Before merging with Comcast, AT&T Broadband had struck a deal for between 7.5 million to 10 million licenses for Microsoft TV's "Advanced" software, which is designed for thick-client digital set-tops.

"We continue to talk about how to restructure that [AT&T Broadband] agreement," Graczyk said. Microsoft invested $1 billion in Comcast back in 1997.

Separately, Time Warner Cable said it would test the Microsoft IPG in Beaumont, Texas, where the MSO serves about 100,000 subscribers. That TWC system is one of a very few that operates on the Motorola digital platform, as most of the MSO's divisions use digital technology from Scientific-Atlanta. In Beaumont, TWC's legacy IPG is provided by Pioneer Electronics (USA).

Introduced in mid-2002, the Microsoft IPG is validated for several thin-client Motorola set-tops models, including the DCT1000, DCT1700 and the widely-deployed DCT2000.

Microsoft TV is also working on versions of Foundation and the IPG for the S-A platform, and privately showed off working versions of it to cable operators at the National Show last month, Graczyk said.

Following some extremely sluggish years in terms of trials and deployments, Microsoft TV finally appears to be gaining some traction with the nation's largest cable MSOs. It's also getting a decent reception in Mexico, scoring set-top software deployment or trial commitments with Cablevision Mexico, Cablevision Monterrey and MegaCable.

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