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MS joins race for fast cable modems

Modem manufacturers, cable companies, and Microsoft too are racing to get into the cable modem market.

Companies from both the cable and computer industries, including software giant Microsoft, are racing to be the first to link PCs with new cable modems at speeds up to 1,000 times faster than telephone-based connections.

Microsoft, the latest to enter the market, announced that it will work with third parties--from PC makers to cable operators--to provide Internet access via cable modems. Of course, its own Windows operating system will be the central piece of software to make all this possible.

Although the details of this strategy are unclear, Microsoft said the cable-television units of Time Warner, Comcast, France's Generale de Videocommunication, and Singapore CableVision agreed to use its software for cable modem networks.

Several cable modem makers--including Motorola, Cisco Systems and Zenith Electronics--agreed to ensure that their products will work on networks controlled by Microsoft software.

Motorola this week began shipping more than 1 million cable modems to cable companies, including Tele-Communications (TCI), Time Warner, and Comcast. The companies plan to test the equipment this summer before distributing the cable modems to cable subscribers, according to Motorola officials.

Pacific Bell will also test its cable network this summer in San Jose, California. Pac Bell will be the first Baby Bell to offer high-speed Internet access via cable modems if its plan is successful. Pac Bell has yet to decide on a supplier for the cable modems themselves.

Pacific Bell may even catch up to @Home, a similar venture by TCI and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. @Home was scheduled to launch this month but was delayed by technical problems.

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