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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 November, 2004, 11:43 GMT
Key cable TV deal for Microsoft
Demo clip of Comcast's new on-demand service
Comcast's users will be more able to watch shows on demand
US pay TV firm Comcast will next week deploy set-top boxes featuring Microsoft software, in a crucial test for Microsoft's cable TV ambitions.

The roll-out marks the first commercial test of Microsoft's TV technology, which the company hopes will be adopted by other cable TV firms in future.

Microsoft has been trying to break into the cable TV market since the mid-90s.

About 1 million Comcast subscribers in Washington state will be the first to get their hands on the new boxes.

Future viewing

They will allow viewers to pause, record and store television programmes.

Digital video recording (DVR) services of this kind, which allow TV viewers to access televised content on demand, are tipped for rapid growth over the next few years

"[Microsoft] have been banging on the doors for about 10 years," said Josh Bernoff, an analyst at technology consultants Forrester Research.

"This is a million people, they are not fooling around."

Microsoft first agreed to provide software for Comcast's digital video recording service in May.

Most of Comcast's existing set-top boxes use software made by Gemstar-TV Guide International.

Microsoft shares closed 3 cents lower at $29.28 on Monday, while Comcast settled 6 cents down at $29.60.

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