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March 12, 1996

Microsoft and DirecTV Form Alliance


Microsoft Corp. and the satellite broadcast system DirecTV said Monday that they would collaborate to deliver digital entertainment and information services to personal computers within the year.

In addition to the 175 channels of entertainment, sports, music and information that DirecTV, a unit of General Motors' Hughes Electronics Corp., now beams to 1.3 million homes equipped with 18-inch receiver dishes and television set-top boxes. The two companies said they would work with others to develop new forms of interactive, digital services that can be displayed on a television or a computer screen.

The alliance was one of several Microsoft disclosed Monday.

Microsoft also announced an ambitious alliance to promote the acceptance and use of the high-speed digital telephone service known as Integrated Services Digital Network, or ISDN.

This service, which more than doubles the speed at which data can travel over phone systems, has been available in many parts of the country for years and is popular overseas, but its acceptance has been slowed in this country by technical complexity, regulatory squabbles and high costs.

Microsoft said it would coordinate with almost all of North America's major telephone companies, more than two dozen communications hardware manufacturers and several Internet access providers to provide customers with a simplified way to use the digital phone service with personal computers based on Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system software.

When used with a personal computer, digital phone lines can speed the performance of data transfers and allow such applications as simple video teleconferencing and rapid display of Internet graphics. Fewer than 500,000 ISDN phone accounts have been installed in the United States.

"ISDN is powerful and has lots of features, but it can be complex and frustrating to get ordered and installed," said Charles Fitzgerald, a program manager in Microsoft's Internet platform and tools division. "Phone companies ask customers questions like, 'How do you want your octets configured on your X.25 D channel?' "

Microsoft also said it would collaborate with Progressive Networks Inc. of Seattle on a new technical specification for delivering real-time audio and video over the Internet and corporate computer networks. The proposed standard, called Active Movie Streaming Format, would allow people to publish a recording of a child's flute recital or an executive's speech on the Internet.

Microsoft said it would include Real Audio server software in future versions of its Internet Explorer software for the World Wide Web.

In its deal with DirecTV, Microsoft will be licensed to produce system software and tools to allow developers to create new types of services for digital satellite broadcasts to personal computers. Microsoft said it would also provide a number of initial applications for the new service, which the companies said they hoped to get to market in early 1997.

Computer and electronics manufacturers would also use the Microsoft technologies to build DirecTV access into future multimedia PCs.

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