Digital TV: Where does Foxtel want to go today?

Microsoft and NDS, a digital TV software provider, have formed a strategic alliance to jointly license, integrate and upgrade software for Microsoft's TV platform.

NDS supplies access software and interactive applications for digital TV broadcasters and set-top box makers. Microsoft will license NDS software to create a new product in the Microsoft TV software family offered to cable, satellite and other types of network operators.

A spokesman from Foxtel could not comment on the broadcaster's current relationship with NDS nor the implications the Microsoft-NDS alliance may have on the broadcaster. "Foxtel is still examining options for the possibility of new digital services," he said.

Foxtel is listed on NDS's website as a customer. Other customers include Sky New Zealand, Star TV and Reuters.

According to Phil Meyer, Microsoft South Pacific manager for emerging technologies, the alliance has worldwide significance but in particular provides a "great opportunity for Australia and next generation set-top boxes manufactured in Australia".

"My angle on the agreement is that it will mean less (products) for consumers . . . and (those products) should go down in price as technologies converge," he said.

Meyer also said that the agreement will allow consumers to have one box, containing open conditional access technology from NDS and web TV functionality. The need to purchase a data communications box and web TV box will be eliminated, he said.

Set-top box manufacturers, including Microsoft partners Acer, Philips, Fujitsu, Pace, Samsung, Sharp Electronics and Sony, will have access to the new functionality, Meyer said.

Microsoft and NDS are planning on offering software support for such services as digital programming, advanced television, electronic program guides, information channels and ecommerce support, as well as interactive programming and advertising, the companies said.

The digital television software and Microsoft TV platform will be jointly marketed to network operators, the companies said. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

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