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Microsoft in Internet TV venture
Alcatel, the world's largest provider of broadband Internet equipment, and Microsoft agreed to jointly develop and sell products for watching television via Web connections.
The companies will combine their Internet-Protocol video software, and Alcatel will be the preferred company to install the product for network operators such as SBC Communications, said Alan Mottram, Alcatel's head of fixed solutions.
"Every fixed-line operator is contemplating or already moving to IPTV," Mottram said in a news conference in Paris yesterday. "We are integrating the Microsoft TV middleware and Alcatel hardware and software to provide a combined offer."
Alcatel in October got a $1.7 billion order to build a fiber-optic network for SBC, whose network is slated to reach 18 million homes by the end of 2007 and carry digital television using Microsoft's Internet-Protocol TV software.
The companies are testing the IPTV product with Telecom Italia, said Eric Boustouller, president of Microsoft France. Mottram said the combined system is being delivered or is in trial with more than 30 operators.
The joint product will allow instant fast-forwarding to skip ads, video-on-demand and picture-in-picture, in addition to electronic TV guides and a search engine for programs, movies and actors, Boustouller said. Microsoft has been developing a chip with STMicroelectronics and Sigma Designs to power set-top boxes that can decode the digital signal, Boustouller said. The chip will be able to show 16 channels on a screen at once.
The Microsoft-Alcatel product will work for digital subscriber lines, optical fiber and coaxial cable, according to the Alcatel executive. The platform will be based on open software and encryption standards such as XML and MPEG, he said.
The companies worked on the agreement for about a year to solve "issues," Mottram said, without giving details. "Mating elephants is always an interesting proposition."
Son Young-jin, the general manager of Microsoft Korea, joined the company in February 2003. He will be replaced on an interim basis by Yoo Jae-sung, a director of the unit.
Seattle Times business staff
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