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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Microsoft's interactive TV deals
Bill Gates
Microsoft will face heavy competition in interactive TV
Software giant Microsoft has unveiled deals with Mexican, Portuguese and Israeli television operators in order to test their latest interactive television system.

This result is set to be the world's first commercial interactive television on broadband set-top boxes, extending Microsoft's forays into TV markets.

Microsoft TV allows cable TV subscribers with special digital set-top boxes to send and receive emails.

Steve Balmer
Steve Balmer who launched the Portuguese deal
It also allows some shopping, banking and betting and offers guides to news, sports, entertainment and other shows.

Microsoft's first deal was with Portugal's TV Cabo cable system, which will offer Microsoft TV to its one million subscribers.

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer attended the launch of the service in Lisbon, hailing it as a "landmark day" for interactive television.

'Masses'

The price of the service and the equipment has not yet been announced, but the aim according to the chairman of TV Cabo is to reach the "masses".

Later this year Mexico's Grupo Televisa's cable outfit - Cablevision - will begin testing the Microsoft TV server and software using advanced set-top boxes made by Motorola.

And Israel's Matav Cable Systems will begin field trials of the Microsoft system later this summer.

Matav serves about one quarter of the Israeli population.

XBox
Microsoft's XBox console set for release in November
In the UK, interactive television has been offered by BSkyB, owned by News Corporation which has nearly five million interactive users.

Microsoft has been expanding from core computer software into consumer products like television and video games for some time.

A series of setbacks, including snags with adapting the software to set-top boxes, delayed the roll-out of commercial interactive TV.

Microsoft suffered a set-back in rolling out interactive TV services in the US when AT&T dropped its commitment to developing a set-top cable box.

AT&T had developed a box called the DCT-5000, but Microsoft had failed to complete the software necessary.

Now AT&T has decided to focus on offering a variety of services rather than concentrating on interactive TV.

The X-Box, Microsoft's first major entry into the games hardware market, is due to be in American shops on 8 November, just in time for Christmas.

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Background:
See also:

04 Jun 01 | Business
Microsoft-AOL talks back on
31 May 01 | Business
Judges poised to rule on Microsoft
30 May 01 | Business
What's it all about?
16 May 01 | New Media
X-Box for Christmas
27 Mar 00 | UK
TV ad goes interactive
31 Oct 00 | Business
UK leads world in interactive TV
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