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Comcast Offers Trial Of Microsoft TV Software 194

Anonymous Howard writes "Designtechnica has a news article about Comcast and Microsoft announcing an agreement to test digital TV services using the "Microsoft TV Interactive Program Guide (IPG)". The trial is scheduled to start this fall using Motorola DCT2000 set-top boxes. The software is designed to help network operators get more value from on-demand and other digital TV services." There are some more details in an article over at CNET News.
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Comcast Offers Trial Of Microsoft TV Software

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  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by B3ryllium ( 571199 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:34PM (#6494704) Homepage
    And here I thought that VCRs would only generate Blue Screens before and after a movie started ... This brings them a whole new potential career - displaying blue screens in the middle of movies!
    • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by jafac ( 1449 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:52PM (#6494821) Homepage
      As an owner of a DishPlayer 7200, which ran this software - I can affirm - while it doesn't BSOD, up until about a year ago, this software was rife with serious, serious, issues. Every update they put out kept making the problems worse and worse. But finally, it seems they got it right. It's a slow box, but it's reasonably stable now.

      The thing is, it was the WebTV client that caused most of the havoc, but I didn't even subscribe to WebTV - I was in it for the PVR functionality.
      Supposedly the OS is a stripped-down FreeBSD. But that's just hearsay from DBSForums.
  • oh wait it is just my TV.... where is my channel changer
  • by Limburgher ( 523006 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:35PM (#6494711) Homepage Journal
    And what's a fatal kernel error?
  • Clippy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:36PM (#6494720)
    "I see you are trying to watch Jerry Springer, would you like some help?"

    • Re:Clippy (Score:5, Funny)

      by Yanna ( 188771 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:38PM (#6494731) Homepage
      Even more dreadful:

      "I see you are trying to watch some porn, would you like some help?"

      I will now have nightmares...
    • Husband: "Lets watch some TV dear, I just got the new M$ TV installed yesterday."
      Wife: "Ok, lets see how it works."
      Husband: "Well, lets pop up the digital assistant and see if he can help."

      Clippy: "I see you're trying to watch TV, would you like me to:"

      -Turn on the latest M$ sponsored show?
      -Show some special offers brought to you by our third party affiliates?
      -Resume the showing of "Hot Gay Clowns III: Three Cock-Ring Circus"?

      Wife: "Honey......?"

  • Will it mean... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rekkanoryo ( 676146 ) * <rekkanoryo AT rekkanoryo DOT org> on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:38PM (#6494732) Homepage
    Will it mean that instead of having only the current half-hour's programming shown in the interactive guide alongside ads, there will no longer be ads, leaving room for an hour and a half's worth of programming information? If not, it's no better than the worthless crap they're serving us in the DCT boxes now. Everyone I know that has digital cable from Comcast doesn't want to see ads, they want to see an interactive version of the TV Guide Channel.
    • Everyone I know that has digital cable from Comcast doesn't want to see ads, they want to see an interactive version of the TV Guide Channel.

      The digital tv that Cogeco offers here (canada) is like that too, and I think it's an absolutely hideous interface. It's slow, it looks like it was designed by a programmer that knows how to use photoshop (but nothing about actual design), and it only shows the current half hour.

      Roger's version (which isn't available where I live) is a lot better. Nice design, sho

    • There are a lot of issues with using the TV Guide Channel format, namely that TV Guide has a patent on identifying a show by channel and time. They also have a patent on identifying a program in a grid by changing the color of items in a grid square.

      I forget all of the insanity precisely, but long, long ago I worked for tv gateway [], whose sole purpose seems to be to prevent tv guide from ramrodding the cable industry as hard as they used to.

      Microsoft is a Big Evil Corp(tm), but honestly, you don't get m

  • Quite frankly, the news media should be ashamed for not picking up on some of the sub-clauses of the Comcast/Microsoft agreement.

    I mean, come on. The television *must* start up to Channel 447 - "Gates Gone Wild, Doggie Style."

    It's just another ridiculous Microsoft ploy.

    • Actually, it will until the first Media Center virus comes out (these things will have some virus vector, right?) - then the ONLY channel you will get is the happy-little-tree-painter-guy (with the afro-like hair) or, maybe, to the aljezera network (that would be kinda funny). Maybe a virus that just, occasionally, changes the channel to Pat Robertsons Christian Crusade, then back again. A playful virus.

      Actually, I'm getting kind of excited. This could be fun, exposing someone's TV to an IRC based chane
    • The television *must* start up to Channel 447 - "Gates Gone Wild, Doggie Style."

      Better than channel 462: "The Monkey Channel - All Ballmer, All Sweaty"

  • "The program 'American Chopper' has performed an illegal action. Continue?"
  • by DoomHaven ( 70347 ) <> on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:42PM (#6494752)
    "Comcast Offers 'Trial Of Microsoft' TV, Software"?

  • by piecewise ( 169377 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:43PM (#6494759) Journal
    I'm assuming the Microsoft version will have soo many more channels than Apple's, but Apple's channels will be of higher quality.


  • by Eberlin ( 570874 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:43PM (#6494760) Homepage
    I see you're trying to watch CNN.
    Would you like help getting to MSNBC?

    Seriously, though, is this where X-Box was supposed to go? Or how does this eventually integrate with the Media PC (I think that's what it's called.)

    Hmmm, wonder what kind of privacy anomalies this introduces in the future. Think of all the tv viewing data it could phone home with!
    • ...the TV watches YOU!
    • "Seriously, though, is this where X-Box was supposed to go? "

      It is. Comcast will be stabbed in the back like all previous MS partners. MS will partner with them, learn the business, steal lots of ideas, then stab them in back and crush them like grapes.

      Some people never learn.
  • Ads, Ads, Ads (Score:3, Interesting)

    by felonious ( 636719 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:43PM (#6494763) Journal
    If anyone out there really thinks there will be no ads then they are in complete denial. As long as humans inherit this earth and view tv in all it's various forms then there will be advertising. It might be passed off as programming but it's still an ad.
  • by molarmass192 ( 608071 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:43PM (#6494765) Homepage Journal
    more info []

    Guess AOL and MS are all buddy-buddy now that the whole Netscape "misunderstanding" is behind them.
  • "Value" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wesley Felter ( 138342 ) <> on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:44PM (#6494766) Homepage
    The software is designed to help network operators get more value from on-demand and other digital TV services.

    Is there any benefit to cable customers? Is this basic program guide any different from the basic program guide that's built in to all digital cable boxes?
    • "Is there any benefit to cable customers? Is this basic program guide any different from the basic program guide that's built in to all digital cable boxes?"

      Yes, because now they will be able to tie it in to the profile that M$ is keeping on you so that they can 'target' the ads more effectively and thus charge more for placement.

  • by ThatDamnMurphyGuy ( 109869 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:44PM (#6494768) Homepage
    It's hard to imagine the TWC cable boxes getting any worse. I had their digital package/receivers for about 3 years, and the damn things locked up and rebooted on their own all the time. That's of course, when the entire network or onscreen guides weren't down all weekend.

    At least now I'd get a BSOD to go along with the fun.
  • by wfberg ( 24378 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:46PM (#6494784)
    Like in 2000?

    For Microsoft, It's "Inactive TV" [] (businessweek)

    And 2002?

    Microsoft likely to miss key test on interactive TV(and they did)(zdnet)
  • DCT Software (Score:5, Informative)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:48PM (#6494791) Homepage
    The current DCT software sucks. Every time you hit a button on the remote, you have to wait for the lousy software to (slowly) execute the command and refresh the screen before pressing another button. The vaunted EPG (electronic program guide) is a joke. It only shows half an hours worth of programs. They waste big chunks of screen space on ads. For a box that supposedly costs $750, they could have hired some real programmers to write the code.
    • Expect it to get worse, though; if you realize how the box chokes on the light amount of graphics used in the TV Guide branded software, imagine how slow things are going to be as they try to add more and more features and eye candy. Cable companies, as monopolies, are always going to give the shittiest service they can get away with; if you want a decent guide, you're still going to have to get a TiVO/Replay.
    • Re:DCT Software (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      first off get a clue the DCT 2000 and 3000 have very VERY slow processors in them AND they are busy doing many other things.

      Before you spew pure crap from your mouth please get a clue as to what you are talking about.

      The DCT 5000 is much faster because it has a much faster processor, more ram and can multitask because many of the subsystems are seperated and based on newer technology.

      Cable descramblers are not changed every 7 minutes to the latest technology they are based on something that works and fro
      • I do have a clue, thank you very much.

        I've written real-time software for systems with less MIPS (10 MHz 68010) and RAM (128KB) than the DCT-2000 (27 MHz 68332). I even used the same real-time kernel (VRTX) as the DCT-2000. My software had a guaranteed 10 mS response time to any event, incoming data packet or user command, and it supported multiple data streams at T1 rates. 99% of the software was written in C.

      • We [] use a 53Mhz Pace DSL 4000 STB []which is also decoding the MPEG stream in software and the responsiveness of the EPG is still instantaneous.

        If an STB has an EPG that is as slow as you describe it is probably because it's using a carrousel EPG, each EPG data page is broadcast round-robin and the STB is waiting for the page to come around.
  • After you get the software update for your cable box, you'll have to dial an 800 number, read off a 700 digit code and they'll give you an activation sequence. Then, once you decide to replace your television, you'll have to pay for all of the movies you watched on the previous one all over again.

    Or no, better yet. Someone will write a virus that takes advantage of a security hole in the software resulting in your cable box being a participant in a DDoS attack... All this while my Tivo hums along unaffect
    • > Someone will write a virus that takes advantage of a security hole in the software
      > resulting in your cable box being a participant in a DDoS attack...

      Don't laugh, this has happened already. There were some Microsoft set top
      boxes out in the field, which upon virus infection joined together and made
      a DDoS attack on the 911 emergency number.

      Here's a link:,24195, 3392631,00.html

  • This takes the cake. Comcast is a shareholder in TiVo yet they won't release a digital set-top box with TiVo built in. But they will "test" the Microsoft software. Perhaps they have some contract with M$ that they have to at least deploy it in a test market before wholly rejecting it. Hopefully, Comcast will still get its $400 per set top box like the early Best Buy/MSN sign up rebate in California...that was funny...everyone got $400 in store to use and they could cancel right when they got home...
  • I KNEW IT (Score:3, Funny)

    by leifm ( 641850 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:01PM (#6494863)
    Finally I have the chance to spit out my MS-Comcast and the XBOX taking over the console market theory. Comcast is the country's largest cable provider, and 3rd in ISPs I believe. Comcast + Microsoft = loss leader XBOX/set top box, which means soon MS(soon) owns the console market and has a new media distribution platform in the living room, and it's all on a controlled piece of hardware so they can DRM all they want. Brilliant!

    Now I will go actually read what this article says...
    • Don't pat yourself on the back too much. I think a lot of people thought something was up when M$ gave Comcast $5 billion back when they bought ATT's cable division. Golly gee, who could have predicted this?
      • I know. You have to remember that here in meatspace I don't get to talk to people who actually think about MS/Comcast synergy with their spare time.
  • Now, instead of paying money to have my intelligence insulted by some noisy box in the living room, I can pay even more for the priviledge--but now I'll have a Microsoft-blessed user interface! Sweet! I can't wait to see the new season of Who Wants to Breed With a Mongoloid? now that I know I'll be able to click through a EULA first!

    My favorite quote from the article: "Comcast's selection of Microsoft TV demonstrates the industry's desire for cost-effective, scalable software platforms that help it get
  • Again. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AntiOrganic ( 650691 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:09PM (#6494912) Homepage
    Though I already expected to see this many blue-screen "jokes" and anti-MS zealotry, I have to admit that while Microsoft's security is questionable, so far they've done a damned decent job of creating stable operating systems. This computer has, as of this writing, been up for 27 days without a reboot (XP Professional) and I never had a problem on my old iPaq either before I sold it. Windows Server 2003 is very much a step in the right direction too, ousting much legacy code responsible for instabilities in the past.

    While I hate to further Microsoft's aims, as a matter of principle, if it does the job better and cheaper than other competing software for digital cable boxes, why not use it? If there is a cost savings, it will certainly trickle down to you as the consumer of said service.
    • Re:Again. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GlassHeart ( 579618 )
      While I hate to further Microsoft's aims, as a matter of principle, if it does the job better and cheaper than other competing software for digital cable boxes, why not use it?

      You should always use the product that is better or cheaper, or both. However, you need to be smart in making that determination. First of all, "better" is not determined by a list of features. The same feature can be implemented in entirely unusable ways. Secondly, "cheaper" does not refer to the price on the tag, either, but t

      • I do seem to recall mentioning "better" and "cheaper," not in some mutually exclusive bargain. Nor did I define "better" as a "list of features" because I am not an idiot. I understand the idea of a "total cost of ownership," and more importantly, I understand the idea of a shitty product. I also understand that it's very possible Microsoft will produce an absolute hunk of garbage and market it. But given the strides taken with Windows 2000, XP, and Server 2003, I am obligated to give them the benefit of th
        • " absolutely nothing on Linux that remotely compares to what Adobe Premiere is capable of, and despite many claims to the contrary, The Gimp isn't a viable Photoshop replacement yet, and don't even get me started on games)."

          "...Mandrake 9.1 box set up right next to me. It's quite reliable, I use it for mail, web browsing, instant messaging, word processing in OpenOffice, and many other tasks."

          "...right now, using it as an everyday machine isn't feasible."

          Let me extract your argument. Linux doesn't d
        • if Microsoft did sell XP at $30, I'd probably buy it. If you think it's crap, so what? It's about using the right tool for the right job

          My point was precisely about this line of thinking. In the short term, a Microsoft (only because Microsoft is a convenient target at this point in time, but the point applies equally to other companies) product may be the cheapest and technically best, but it can still be a better purchase to buy from a competitor. This is particularly true if Microsoft is pricing that w

        • Jesus christ you are paying for adobe premier and server 2003 and you are worried about cheaper? Anybody who has 600+ to throw around software does not give a shit about saving 20 bucks on XP. What is that like a thousand dollars on software alone!

          " I use it for mail, web browsing, instant messaging, word processing in OpenOffice, and many other tasks. I do also intend to do Linux development once I finish my reading on Qt and GTK+ (again, the right tool for the job). But right now, using it as an everyday
    • If XP has been up for 27 days without a reboot you've probably already been hacked :)

      Use Windows Update... you know it makes sense.
    • Ah, it just wouldn't be a MS story without microsoft apologists coming out of the woodwork to claim that their unloaded desktop boxes don't crash randomly any more.

      Imagine, MS makes an operating system that can run for days upon days without crashing, and people give them compliments for it!

      • Especially considering that I run Apache and MySQL on my desktop, for development/testing, and am constantly rendering things in Premiere. Honestly, I can barely remember the last time XF86 DIDN'T crash on me over the course of normal use, and that's after taking 5 minutes to start up because of nVidia's crap drivers that constantly enumerate display modes my monitor can't support. This may very well be my own fault, but if it is, I'll stick with the easier solution right now.

        Additionally, my system was ta
        • Er...a windowing system does not an operating system make.

          I don't know how to tell you this, but apache and mysql are not desktop applications. They are server applications.

          A server does not run X.

          Sounds like your problems are related to your linux cluebie-ness and general amateurishness. Surprise, surprise.

          • When did I mention a single thing about servers, again? Oh, wait, I didn't. How was your train of thought drawn to servers?
            • Apache...mysql...please tell me you're not running those in production on a desktop...
              • Apache...mysql...please tell me you're not running those in production on a desktop...

                Windows does blow, and Linux is great. But please read the posts you reply to. He said he had those apps installed for development/testing. That's a perfectly valid workstation configuration.

    • 27 days uptime is 'stable'? What are you smoking? My Mandrake desktop box (which is heavily abused) had an uptime of about 3 months before I rebooted it to replace a broken CDROM drive. I can't remember ever having to reboot due to a crash. My router box currently has an uptime of 234 days (last time I powered it down was to clean the innards). 27 days is impressive only for a windows user.
      • For further clarification, these are the only reasons this machine has ever been rebooted:

        Windows XP froze because of an ACPI incompatibility with my motherboard.

        SuSE 7.3 froze because of an ACPI incompatibility with my motherboard.

        Windows XP bluescreened due to leaked beta nVidia drivers while I was playing Unreal Tournament.

        Moving furniture forced me to disconnect the computer because power isn't wireless.

        This room is 85 degrees with all my computers on and that's not necessarily comfortable.

        27 day

    • Re:Again. (Score:3, Informative)

      by LinuxHam ( 52232 )
      If there is a cost savings, it will certainly trickle down to you as the consumer of said service.

      You're obviously not a Comcast customer. Hell, you may not even be a consumer in the real world making a statement like that.

    • many blue-screen "jokes" and anti-MS zealotry
      a damned decent job of creating stable operating systems.
      up for 27 days without a reboot (XP Professional)
      much legacy code responsible for instabilities in the past.

      Ordinary consumers expect an STB to be as stable as their TV not a PC.
  • The cable set-top box I have (AT&T digital cable) is really awful.

    • It misses keypresses -- the receiver light blinks, so the hardware received the keypress, but the software just ignores it.
    • It's really slow -- you can see the text being drawn on the screen
    • It's buggy -- the wrong show sometimes gets described, which is really amusing/annoying when I'm watching Discovery Channel and the program guide shows the description of an adult movie.
    • It's ugly -- but maybe I've been spoiled by the less harsh colors and more readable text used by TiVo.

    Although I'm not generally a big fan of Microsoft software, in this case I'd put my bets on Microsoft's software being better.

    Amit []

  • Anyone who has Comcast knows that channel switching and doing stuff on that box is damn slow.

    You'd think that for as much as one pays for digital cable, they could have ad-free channel browsing -- but no.
  • But does anyone else see this as becoming increasingly dangerous. Microsoft has managed to delve out into just about every marketplace imaginable, with many of their efforts (.net, MS TV or whatever they are calling that set top browser now) failing and only surviving by getting more and more money shoved into advertising or other peoples pockets to force their way into the marketplace.

    I mean honestly, many of Microsoft's products are sub-par at best (Even though I hate it, I will give them credit for bot

  • Too bad the NetTopBox [] is a dead project.

    As a consumer I want the cable co to expose an open set of services that lets 3rd parties compete to add value for me.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Now it will make it easier to descramble porn channels.
  • I don't allow M$ products in my home.
    So sorry comcast, no sale today...
  • If you've seen the screenshots from the Windows Home Media version, the interface could for this could be pretty slick. I've had an AT&T/Comcast box for three years now. As every other poster has pointed out, it's horrendous. Only 30 minute previews, obtrusive ads, slow response. If you press 551 on the remote and then hit guide, it takes you to channel 002. Lame. One of the nice things about owning a Tivo is it give a respectable ui to navigate the channels.

    But I digress...

    ANY alternative would
  • set-up, the guide is horribly slow, it takes almost 2 full seconds to actually change a channel, and I get black screen during the interim, not to mention the pixelization that shows up because the cheap bastards just utilized the added space to jam 3 more signals in...

    COMCAST just PLAIN BLOWS. I often resort to watching the baseball games on my rabbit-ears from the local station and I get better reception. The higher resolution the program is in the worse it looks on their system. I won't even begin to ta
  • A Few DCT Facts (Score:2, Informative)

    by Barovelli ( 635801 )
    hmm is my IP showing?
    • The programming guide currently in use is by PreView, it gets loaded into the DCT at the local cable system (it's not built in). DCT2000s have 2mb RAM, the more channels in a system, the less room for info (or ads -ha ha)
    • The boxes also seek out new firmwares upon power up. Ever plug one in, see a picture, then have it shutdown? New firmware (Welcome to DCT Update . . )
    • Channel switching is quicker on later models. The 5100s are darn quick.
    • I am not a big fan of of the tiny writin
  • Microsoft X (Score:3, Funny)

    by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:55PM (#6495195) Homepage
    Microsoft Windows
    Microsoft Internet
    Microsoft Office
    Microsoft Server Editions (or enterprise etc)
    Microsoft Hardware (mouse etc)

    Microsoft Games
    Microsoft Console
    Microsoft XBox

    Microsoft Windows Media
    Microsoft Cinema
    Microsoft TV
    Microsoft Media PC (ms tivo might be better)

    No, mr judge we're defineately not using our influence in some market to expand in other markets, as that would be against the law. (v0.9b had a problem but they patched it)

    what's up next ?
    • There's nothing wrong or illegal for a monopoly to reach out in new "directions".

      Now, if they said "use our product or we'll stop selling you Windows", that would be illegal. But only for a company with a monopoly in that particular market (it wouldn't be illegal for MS to say use windows or we won't sell you our digital cable box).
      • Do you remember that they have been CONVICTED of monopoly abuse ?

        The things that were dismissed were the remedy of Jude Jackson.

        IIRC, IANAL, and YANAJE (you are not a judge either)
        • What does a prior conviction have to do with what they do now? Does the settlement reached by the justice department prevent them from creating new products?

          Fact of the matter is, they can expand in new directions as long as they don't use their monopoly clout (ie: threaten to cut someone out of the loop in an area they hold a monopoly, ex: tying) to expand into new areas. The fact that they can throw rediculous amounts of money at it, nor does your dislike for them, doesn't enter into the equation.
  • by Stalemate ( 105992 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:24PM (#6495367)
    I first thought comcast was going to be offering some channel similar to Court TV dedicated to showing Microsoft trials.
  • by Felinoid ( 16872 )
    You know every time Microsoft comes out with something (Like the X Box) I'm hoping it has bugs.
    The X Box couldn't have survived unless it was good. Your first entrence into a market is going to key your future in that market.

    The entertainment industry is very nasty about quality control. You don't "make due" with a sucky TV show. You switch channels or turn the TV off. It's something you CAN live with out and if it sucks well.. you will.

    So if the X Box had Microsofts typical "Crash and burn" style... We w
  • by jea6 ( 117959 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @09:10PM (#6495643) [] and don't forget to check out their ridiculous promo videos.
  • This is hardly "news." MS has been trying to break into the cable STB market for years and years and years. Back during the height of the java wars they announced a parnership with another big cable operator - MS was to "give away" something like 1 Million boxes, spread out over a few deployments, in a development partnership.

    The only thing that ever came from that groundbreaking deal was of provoking the biggest players in the cable industry to form their own development alliance []. These boxes were to use

  • The Sky (News Corporation's satellite service in the UK) Digibox crashes every couple of weeks - or more if you press the remote buttons too fast! A 10 second power down fixes it until the next time. It's even in the FAQ in the Sky TV guide.

    So maybe MS can't do worse - hopefully they don't put a HDD in the thing though, because at least the Sky box is solid-state and recovers quickly.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington