Q&A: Microsoft TV Sets the “Foundation” for Digital Cable at Industry’s Biggest Show

CHICAGO, June 9, 2003 — At The National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s (NCTA) 2003 National Show, the cable industry’s largest annual gathering, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates introduced Microsoft TV Foundation, a new software solution that helps cable operators get more from new digital services such as on-demand programming.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates (left) explains the new Microsoft TV Foundation software to Comcast Corporation President and CEO Brian Roberts at the National Show, Chicago, June 9, 2003. Click image for high-res version.

PressPass recently spoke to Moshe Lichtman , corporate vice president of the Microsoft TV Division, about today’s announcements and how they tie into the overall Microsoft TV vision and strategy.

PressPass: It’s been a big day for Microsoft TV. Tell us what you’ve announced at the NCTA show.

Lichtman: Yes, today is the biggest day in Microsoft TV’s history. We made several announcements that highlight our support and commitment to the cable industry.

First, we’ve launched a new product for cable operators called Microsoft TV Foundation. If you’re a cable operator, Foundation helps you get more from on-demand and other digital cable services. We provide the framework to make digital cable entertaining and fun for subscribers. The software is lean enough to run on existing set-top boxes, but powerful enough to deliver rich digital cable services like on-demand and managed content including games.

At the same time, we announced that Cablevision, the largest cable operator in Mexico, plans to deploy Microsoft TV Foundation and Microsoft TV IPG (Interactive Program Guide) starting later this year. We also announced that several industry leaders from Motorola and Video on Demand (VOD) vendors SeaChange and Concurrent to application developers like MetaTV — are rallying behind Foundation and our strategy to provide cable operators software solutions that get more value from their investments.

PressPass: Tell us a little bit more about Microsoft TV Foundation?

Lichtman: We built Foundation from the ground up to be THE digital TV software solution for cable operators. Foundation helps cable operators create a better user experience, especially for their on-demand offerings. It also helps them increase usage and take rates for on-demand and premium services. Finally, Foundation is flexible and enables operators to deliver a consistent subscriber experience across a wide range of set-top boxes — from thin-client to advanced devices. It’s really a “must have” for cable operators who are looking for ways to better merchandize services like on-demand.

PressPass: Explain a little bit more how Foundation helps cable operators get more revenue from digital cable?

Lichtman : It starts with great software. Microsoft TV Foundation is a complete client and server solution designed to help cable operators not just deliver but also better merchandise digital cable services. In other words, we help them better package, promote and manage these services.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates (left) with Brian Roberts (center), President and CEO of Comcast Corporation, and his father, Comcast founder Ralph Roberts, at the National Show, Chicago, June 9, 2003. Click image for high-res version.

Cable operators using Foundation will find they can be more agile in responding to customer needs and marketplace changes. With it, they can roll out new applications, experiences, and promotions faster and more easily because it eliminates the need for costly, time-consuming changes to the set-top box software and network infrastructure.

For example, by using Foundation, a cable operator partnering with a content company could create a virtual channel that brings together the company’s content, including games and on-demand offerings. The
also could provide an opportunity for content-related sponsorship and ads. What’s even more exciting is that, through the platform, the channel offerings and experience could quickly and easily be updated, enabling the cable operator to can respond to time-sensitive market changes — such as capitalizing on holidays, new feature-film releases, or the ever-changing tastes of the youngest consumers — and offerings can be constantly refined, based on marketing data and analysis. In short, software may enable cable operators to increase the revenue they generate through real-time merchandizing of their services to the consumer.

PressPass: What does Bill Gates’ presence at NCTA imply to the cable industry?

Lichtman: Bill’s appearance shows Microsoft’s significant commitment to the cable industry and how excited he is about Microsoft TV. We’re here to help the cable industry realize the potential of the cable home both now and in the future — through a broad range of products and technologies, including Microsoft TV, Xbox, Windows Media, Windows XP, and more.

PressPass: What is the overall Microsoft TV vision?

Lichtman: Our vision is to create new value for network operators through software that enhances and simplifies the consumer TV experience. We are working hard with the cable industry to take TV to the next level, and develop software solutions that help operators be more agile in delivering on-demand and other premium services for today’s set-top boxes. Tens of billions of dollars have been invested by the cable industry to make digital cable a valuable asset for consumers, and we are well positioned to help the industry realize the potential of digital TV now and in the future.

Microsoft TV IPG and our newly announced Microsoft TV Foundation are the building blocks for helping operators realize that potential.

PressPass: Apart from Foundation, how are you executing on that strategy?

Lichtman: It really started at last year’s NCTA show, when we refocused our efforts on solutions that get the most of out today’s set-top boxes.

Microsoft TV Foundation

Parental guidance options. Click image for high-res version.

On-demand movie description. Click image for high-res version.

Since then, we have been building a great team of executives, engineers and product managers that believe in our strategy and are really pushing the boundaries of what you can do with a thin-client set-top box.

We now have all of the pieces in place to help cable operators deliver a better TV experience a team of seasoned executives, the right partnerships, significant customer commitments, and the right products at the right time.

While Microsoft TV Foundation and Microsoft TV Interactive Program Guide are the main focus for our strategy today, we have other exciting initiatives in the works as well.

PressPass: What has Microsoft TV accomplished in the cable space?

Lichtman: It’s been a very good year for Microsoft TV. Since launching Microsoft TV Interactive Program Guide (IPG) at last year’s NCTA Show, we’ve released two more versions the latest integrates VOD listings for easier display and integration. We’re also proud to say that Microsoft TV IPG is the only integrated IPG with a VOD solution for the Motorola DCT1200 set-top box, in addition to more powerful set-tops. In the last year, we’ve signed agreements for IPG to be deployed by two cable operators in the U.S., as well as five operators in Latin America.

PressPass: What’s next for Microsoft TV after such a splash in Chicago?

Lichtman: We’ll take the momentum from our launch of Microsoft TV Foundation and carry that into another big cable industry event in July, called the CTAM Summit, where (Microsoft CEO) Steve Ballmer will continue where Bill left off, highlighting our initiatives that help cable operators get the most out of digital cable. We also expect to make more announcements around both our IPG and Foundation products as we move forward.

All in all, we couldn’t be more excited about the future of Microsoft TV and our relationships with the companies that are helping bring more fun and entertainment to digital cable.

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