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Thomson Multimedia, Microsoft Form TV Services Venture.

Thomson Multimedia SA has set up a new subsidiary, TAK, in which Microsoft Corp is to take a 30% stake. TAK begins life with a registered capital of 12m euros ($12.6m). It plans to develop interactive services for television, including internet access, email, information and access to interactive programming.

Microsoft is already a minority shareholder in Thomson, having invested in the company in July 1998 as a part of a joint agreement to develop and promote interactive and enhanced television products using Windows CE (CI No 3,465). The deal marked the effective end of Thomson's alternative developments with Sun Microsystems Inc using the OpenTV architecture. Thomson pulled out of its joint venture with Sun seven months later (CI No 3,609). Meanwhile, Microsoft has been investing heavily in European cable and telecommunications companies, including the UK's NTL Inc and Telewest Communications Plc, and TVCabo in Portugal.

TAK aims to provide subscription-free access to a number of services, including games, weather, news, stock quotes and an electronic program guide. At launch, the services will be enabled through an embedded TAK module in Thomson TV sets due on the market in the second quarter of 2000. Using the ATVEF Advanced Television Enhancement Forum standard, based on HTML, the same technology could be embedded into other devices such as set-top boxes. The TAK unit will be operated as a dedicated services company, Thomson said.

Meanwhile, Thomson Multimedia's RCA unit is not now expected to bring out a television with built-in WebTV capabilities until next year. RCA will sell a standalone WebTV Plus receiver, priced at around $250, later this fall. RCA - one of a number of companies planning to ship integrated WebTV receivers along with Sony Corp and Philips Electronics NV - will wait until Microsoft is ready with the Windows CE port of WebTV's software.
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 31, 1999
Words:304
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