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Microsoft TV says 'ciao' to Telecom Italia

Software giant hopes for la dolce vita with digital TV deal that brings advanced features to broadband subscribers.

Microsoft has made further headway in the market for advanced digital-television services offered via telecommunications providers.

The software giant's TV division announced a deal Friday with Telecom Italia, which will begin testing the division's Internet Protocol Television, or IPTV, software. The announcement was made at the International Broadcasters Convention in the Netherlands.

IPTV is designed to let phone companies offer new, television-related subscriber services via their two-way broadband networks. Such services make it possible to equip a standard television set with video-on-demand, interactive programming guides with integrated video and multiple picture-in-picture capabilities.

The announcement builds on Microsoft TV's previously announced trials with Bell Canada, India-based Reliance Infocomm, United States-based SBC Communications and Swisscom subsidiary Bluewin, headquarted in Switzerland. It also strengthens Microsoft TV's foothold in the overseas market, where advanced TV services are proliferating.

In addition, Microsoft and technology equipment maker Thomson said the two companies have completed specially designed set-top boxes that support IPTV. The boxes, the Thompson IP1001 and the RCA-branded IP1000, will be made available to the telecommunications companies that are trying out Microsoft's technology. Bluewin is the first customer to conduct a market trial of the Microsoft TV IPTV platform and is deploying the Thomson set-top boxes in the trial.

Both set-top boxes support current and next-generation video compression technology, including MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2, Windows Media 9 Series and MPEG-4 Part 10 AVC (H.264/JVT).

"Working with these two market leaders in the field of IPTV enables us to deliver significant new value to our trial base of over 600 customers, providing them with compelling and exciting TV services across 30 channels, including five pay-TV channels," Michael Zumsteg, Bluewin's executive in charge of expanded business, said in a statement.