Microsoft, 2 Cable Giants Weigh Interactive TV Venture
By John Markoff
New York Times Service
International Herald Tribune, Monday, June 14, 1993
NEW YORK--Three dominant technology and entertainment companies are on the verge of joining forces to create the equivalent of software for cable television--a system that would combine the worlds of computing and television and perhaps shape how much of popular culture is delivered.
Time Warner Inc., the largest entertainment company, Tele-Communications Inc., the largest cable television company, and Microsoft Corp., the largest software company are expected to announce by the end of the month that they will form a company, tentatively called Cablesoft. The companies hope the new venture will lead the way in establishing a standard for the transmission of a coming generation of interactive programs.
At stake is control of the unobtrusive cable box that sits atop many television sets. In recent months the box has become a battleground for computer, telephone, and cable companies.
Last month, for example, Intel Corp., the world's largest chipmaker, Microsoft, and General Instrument Corp. announced plans to develop a cable converter that would have a built-in personal computer. Last Monday Time Warner announced that Silicon Graphics Inc., a Silicon Valley computer maker, and Scientific Atlanta, a supplier of cable boxes, would supply hardware and software for its digital television trial in Orlando, Florida, which is scheduled for next year. A day before that announcement, Kaleida, a joint venture of IBM and Apple Computer, said it was joining with Motorola Inc. and Scientific Atlanta to develop a similar futuristic television controller.
Need I point out that just as soon as your cable box talks to your computer in almost any fashion whatsoever, the technological means exist to make subscription software as secure as subscription television. And the pirate TV decoder business seems to have been roundly wiped out.
The Time Warner/Tele-Communications/Microsoft deal is, of course, something that's looking out a few years and probably genuinely focused on interactive television. But purely as a side effect, something that just falls out, is the means to distribute and authorise subscription software world-wide. Controlled by Microsoft. This could have implications outside the entertainment world.
Editor: John Walker