Microsoft teams with Philips, others on Digital TV

Microsoft already has "commitments" for 15 million set-top boxes, using the software from companies including TV Cabo in Portugal, NTL Group in the UK, United Pan-Europe Communications in the Netherlands and AT&T Broadband in the US, it said in a statement.

The client software will be made available in two versions: Basic Digital (Microsoft says 1.5 million copies of the underlying software in this version have already been deployed in set-top boxes around the world) and Advanced, which is still to come.

Microsoft also announced plans to include elements of the client software, Microsoft TV Technologies, in future versions of its Windows operating system for PCs and "PC-architected entertainment appliances."

The company also released information about two versions of its software for the "head end," the part of a broadcast network from which programs are transmitted. TV Server is designed to integrate with the Advanced client to deliver enhanced TV services, while TV Access Channel Server will deliver Internet access and Windows-based multimedia content, according to the company.

To get the Microsoft TV software into homes, Microsoft has struck a deal with Dutch hardware manufacturer Koninklijke Philips Electronics to incorporate its software in a new range of Philips digital television set-top boxes, available some time next year, the companies announced in a joint statement. Under the terms of the agreement, Philips will license Microsoft's television software platform, and the companies will collaborate on development of devices based on Philips' Nexperia hardware.

The devices will combine support for electronic programming guides, interactive TV programming, Internet access and recording of TV programs to a hard disk -- all features available in products currently on the market from other manufacturers and software developers.

In addition to producing set-top boxes for the consumer market, the companies have also agreed to work with network operators to customise set-top boxes to their needs. Philips has previously collaborated with Microsoft WebTV Networks on providing Internet access through television set-top boxes.

Microsoft also announced the recruitment of a number of European companies to its Microsoft TV developer program, including the BBC, and said that NDS Group, the software development subsidiary of News Corp, had joined its Interactive Broadcast Tools Partner Program.

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