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Trio may form cable coalition

The ultimate alliance between the cable and computer industry may be stalled.

A rumored deal linking cable giants Tele-Communications Inc. and Time Warner Inc., and the world’s largest software maker, Microsoft Corp., is still in negotiations (Daily Variety, June 14).

“We don’t have a deal with any of the cable or phone companies,” said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, at an informal press briefing at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

A venture, tentatively named Cablesoft, is expected to set a standard for the still-developing interactive TV market. The group would set the necessary guidelines so every system could be compatible. The initial reaction to the news was swift, with rivals in both industries fearing they would not have a voice in the standard setting.

Gates, however, appears to have opened a dialogue with every one of the 10 largest cable companies and all the major telecommunications concerns.

Separately, Gates said Microsoft will become a minority investor in many multimedia ventures. To date, the company has shied away from equity investments. Microsoft “will be in all sorts of minority-owned ventures,” he said, as the computer, telecommunications, publishing, entertainment and other industries converge on interactive TV and other multimedia platforms.

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