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Comcast to use Liberate software in set-tops

The former Network Computer Incorporated says it has finally bagged its most important customer win yet for its software: cable operator Comcast.

    Liberate Technologies, the former Network Computer Incorporated, said today it had finally bagged its most important customer win yet for its software: cable operator Comcast.

    Liberate Technologies said Comcast, the third largest cable operator in the United States, signed an agreement to license software for interactive digital set-top boxes. The software enables advanced set-top boxes to browse the Web, send email, and browse through a growing array of television programming, among other features, and will be deployed starting in the first half of 2000, Liberate said.

    Details on the contract's worth, how many devices would use Liberate software, and the cities they would be available in were not given.

    Liberate's first deal with a cable operator, ironically, comes with the same company that received a $1 billion investment from Microsoft. The use of Liberate technology does not necessarily preclude the use of Microsoft's Windows CE operating system software, though.

    The licensing deal with Comcast follows Liberate's previously announced $50 million private round of financing that included five leading cable companies: Comcast, Cox Communications, MediaOne Ventures, Rogers Communications, and Shaw Communications. With the successful closing of the Comcast deal, similar deals with the other investors could follow soon, helping the company gain momentum as it readies an IPO.

    "We're pleased that Comcast has made a substantial commitment to Liberate, both through equity ownership and through this licensing agreement," Mitchell Kertzman, Liberate's CEO, said in a statement.

    Recently, Liberate has been gaining momentum in the important U.S. market. Design wins include the use of the company's software in set-top boxes that will bring America Online to the television set. The company is also supplying software for use by US West to provide interactive TV and telephony services and has secured a number of deals abroad.