Microsoft chief Bill Gates has called on US cable companies to develop high speed Internet services more rapidly, claiming they are ideally positioned to win customer loyalty, to drive and lead the way to new services. "No else can do it in the near term," he asserted at a National Cable Television Association meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
Microsoft's CEO announced that a deal with the number two cable company, Tele-Communications (TCI), has been finalised, with Microsoft now set to supply its Windows CE cutdown operating system on five million boxes. Announced in January, commentators speculated that negotiations were near collapse, but the speech confirms Microsoft's presence in the new world of cable set-top boxes.
Despite his enthusiasm, and the promise "to invest billions in driving Windows CE to be the same type of standard on these devices as it is on the PC", many cable operators are fighting shy.
They fear that Microsoft's dominance of the desktop will be duplicated in the cable sector if Gates controls the operating system in what looks to be a huge market. Gates sought to reassure the Atlanta audience, saying: "There's no need for paranoia."
Intel and Oracle are pushing equally hard for high speed Internet services, and US reports suggest that Intel and Oracle are about to invest in Time Warner's Road Runner. (Time Warner, along with Intel, Microsoft and TCI are backing the Cable Broadband Forum, a cable industry effort to promote the use of very fast cable modems.)
IT vendors would benefit directly from demand for high speed Internet access service delivered via cable. In Oracle's case, its networking computer subsidiary, NCI, would be well positioned to install its software on set-top boxes; and Intel's ongoing push into the home PC market can only be aided by very fast Internet access.
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