Microsoft is including digital TV in its OSs because CEO Bill Gates expects the marriage of the TV and the PC will be next revolution in the technology industry.
Speaking at Microsoft?s Win HEC developers? conference in San Francisco, Gates said digital TV reception will be part of Windows NT 5.0 and the Windows 95 upgrade, Memphis, now available in beta.
?It is just a question of common standards between TVs and PCs,? he said. ?One of our priorities is putting the PC in the centre of the entertainment part of your home.?
Following Microsoft?s MSNBC collaboration with NBC, the TV network with the most involvement in IT, the software giant sees TV as the best way to expand the technology market into consumers? homes. Dataquest and IDC reports say the business market is almost saturated, PCs have reached less than 20 per cent of First World homes and the consumer market is growing slowly. Microsoft cannot continue its rapid growth by selling OS upgrades, so selling computer technology into the vast majority of homes is the next booming opportunity.
Microsoft spent $425 million on Web TV Networks last week, a company that makes set-top boxes that add Internet and email access to TVs, despite analysts? claims Web TV sales have been very poor. Although US regulators have approved a digital TV standard that follows the TV industry?s projection method rather than the computer industry?s picture-generation method, Gates ignored this issue. He said the PC has always used digital signals and is therefore better suited to digital broadcasts than TV. TV companies are set to fight for their market and digital TV standard but Intel and Compaq are also developing PC/TVs that can receive digital broadcasts.
The US public will gradually move to the regulators? digital TV standard by 2006, according to TV companies. Geographically, Europe is clearly the next battleground for the battle between digital TV and PC/TV. A source at one UK high-definition digital TV manufacturer said either industry could win the lucrative business. ?We all believe that PCs and TVs will be joined, but will the TV marry the PC or will the PC marry the TV? It?s at the beginning now.?
Bill Veghte, Windows group manager at Microsoft, said the marriage of PCs and TV is Microsoft?s worldwide strategy. ?The plumbing is in place in Europe and OEMs have a great opportunity there to put TV cards in.?
To sell computers into every home, industry leaders agree they must be very simple to use, like the telephone, and accepted as a part of the furniture, like the TV. Gates agreed, stressing that simplicity was the most important attribute of Memphis and introducing a raft of entertainment, games and multimedia components for Memphis, which include digital versatile disc (DVD) and CD innovations, to make the OS appeal to the consumer market.
NT 5.0 and Memphis will be available in 1998, Microsoft said. Gates demonstrated Memphis? TV capabilities and said viewing could be enhanced by interactive guides, information, hyperlinks and animation during programmes.
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