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Giving Microsoft Corp.'s interactive television strategy a big boost, Charter Communications Inc. agreed to buy 1 million Microsoft TV software licenses over the next seven years.

Charter, a champion of "thick-client" set-tops, said it would offer the software on Motorola Broadband-built DCT-5000 boxes and run applications supplied by Digeo Inc.

Charter said it plans to offer the advanced boxes with the Microsoft-Digeo combination commercially to customers early next year. Presently, the MSO is conducting a technical field trial involving the DCT-5000, with about 100 subscribers in St. Louis, Mo.

Charter's agreement with Microsoft is not exclusive. Earlier this year, the MSO committed to offer Liberate Technologies' middleware for high-end boxes to 300,000 subscribers.

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