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Akimbo lands Cisco, AT&T as investors

Provider of set-top boxes, video-on-demand attracts funding from two companies with big IPTV ambitions.

Akimbo Systems, which delivers television programming distributed over the Internet, announced Monday that it received investments from Cisco Systems and AT&T.

The investments are part of a third, $15.5 million funding round for Akimbo, whose video-on-demand service allows customers to download programs to the Akimbo Player set-top box. The investments also augment AT&T's and Cisco's previous advances into the market for delivering TV programming via the Internet Protocol.

Akimbo is teaming up with AT&T's Homezone programming service, which is scheduled to debut later this summer. Cisco, meanwhile, has moved aggressively into the TV services market with the purchase of Linksys, a maker of wireless networking gear for the home, and its $7 billion acquisition of cable set-top box maker Scientific-Atlanta.

AT&T's Homezone subscribers will use their integrated set-top box with AT&T Yahoo broadband to access video programs and movies, as well as tap into television programming through the AT&T-DISH Network satellite service. AT&T aims to use Akimbo as another tool to expand its IPTV offerings, which include phone, data and voice services designed to compete with those offered by cable companies.

Akimbo is also accessible through the Microsoft Media Center Online Spotlight area for Edition 2005 PCs.

In addition to its Linksys and Scientific-Atlanta acquisitions, Cisco also invested in Wildvine Technologies, which develops technology designed to allow on-demand service providers to distribute their digital media securely over the Internet.

Cisco's strategy is to ride the growth in home networking by providing the devices that allow IP networks to distribute content. The networking-gear maker is also seeking ways to provide the devices that allow consumers to view or listen to digital media.

"Cisco and AT&T are emerging as two of the most innovative companies in the world in terms of creating new ways for video to reach consumers," Joshua Goldman, Akimbo chief executive, said in a statement.

Cisco, AT&T and another new investor, Blueprint Ventures, join Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Sprout Group and Zone Ventures in this third round of financing.