Microsoft Corp. and cable television provider Comcast Corp. said Monday they would begin deploying set-top boxes powered by Microsoft software starting next week.
The deal between the world's largest software maker and the largest U.S. cable operator, which the companies announced in May, will deliver digital video recording (DVR) capabilities to pause, record and store TV shows and movies to 1 million Comcast subscribers in Washington state beginning November 15.
The deployment is a milestone for Microsoft, which has been trying to get its software widely deployed in the television and cable industries for years with little success, despite billions invested in cable companies during the 1990s.
(MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)
"This is the first large-scale commercial deployment of our TV software in the United States," Moshe Lichtman, the vice president in charge of Microsoft's TV division, told reporters at company headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
The new offering from Comcast is targeted squarely at DirecTV Group Inc.'s satellite-based digital video recorder, which is based on Tivo Inc.'s DVR system that is also sold separately from cable- or satellite-based subscription services.
Consumers are increasingly turning toward new technology that allows them to access televised content on demand, instead of being tied to programming schedules.
Comcast Cable, based in Philadelphia with 21 million nationwide subscribers, said that the new services will help the company increase its customer base and sell more subscribed content, such as premium movie and sports channels.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, although the two companies said in May that the deal was for Comcast to use Microsoft's software for set-top boxes for up to 5 million users.
Microsoft's software, called Microsoft TV Foundation Edition 1.7, allows users to record TV programs, bring up video content on demand and also support high-definition television.
"This is the first major success for Microsoft in the United States," said Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff.
"They have been banging on the doors for about 10 years," Bernoff said, "This is a million people (being tested), they are not fooling around.
Microsoft is aiming to replace Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.'s software that runs in many of Comcast's set-top boxes built by Motorola Inc. set-top boxes.
Microsoft's Lichtman said that he had canceled his subscription to Netflix Inc.'s online movie rental service, which sends customers rental DVDs via mail for a fixed monthly fee. Lichtman, who said he had been a Netflix customer for three years said that much of the movies that his family got through Netflix was now available on the DVR-based set-top box.