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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

On-Line Videos on Demand

SEATTLE -- On a stage filled with scaffolding and designed to look like a construction site, Microsoft Corp. this week unveiled new software that it hopes will be used to build the information superhighway. The world's biggest software company used the set to unveil a new product, code-named "Tiger," that it hopes will become the industry-standard software for interactive television, just as its Windows and MS-Dos took control of the desktop computer world. The software system under development could be used to deliver on-line video cheaply on any scale from a small editing studio to a large city, Microsoft said. The software would allow hundreds of television viewers simultaneously to access movies, news clips or other information through a relatively inexpensive personal computer. The system will be tested beginning early next year in Seattle in a venture with cable television giant Tele-Communications Inc., said Craig Mundie, vice president for advanced consumer technology. Plans call for the test to be duplicated in Denver and then rolled out on a large-scale commercial basis in the first half of 1996, Mundie said at a demonstration of the new technology. The software-based system is seen as a solution to providing video-on- demand and other services over the coming information superhighway far more cheaply than would be possible using expensive hardware such as supercomputers costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Tiger project, built on Microsoft's Windows NT Advanced Server software, is crucial to the company's efforts to play a key role in building what Mundie called "the roadbed for the information highway." Software will play a crucial role in the building and operation of the highway, when the flow of data, pictures and sound will make traditional video tools such as the consumer's remote control virtually obsolete. For users to select from a vast list of computerized videos and programs on a cable television system of the future, powerful but easy-to-use software will be needed. Microsoft, which made its name by providing just such software for personal computers, thinks its tool can be adapted to television. "As computing moves off the desktop and into the fabric of our lives, we have to follow it with software," said Nathan Myhrvold, senior vice president of advanced technology at Microsoft. Compaq and microprocessor Intel Corp. have both agreed to support the Tiger system with hardware offerings. But Microsoft officials said the open architecture would be compatible with a variety of platforms. Michael Lambert, a marketing vice president for Compaq Computer Corp., said in an interview that a personal computer costing as little as $2,000 could serve as many as 100 users, depending on the application. That might be enough for a hotel or office network that wanted a system of video-on-demand or a small-scall interactive television system. A rack of about eight PCs costing a total of $30,000 could form the basis of a system serving a midsized company with thousands of users, Lambert said. Mundie said that by next year small-scale private networks could be developed using the software to offer services at locations such as shopping kiosks or real-estate offices. Initially, the big payoff for the technology will be in entertainment-on-demand offered by telecommunications and cable television companies, Myhrvold said. In the demonstration, officials showed how a user could select from a variety of news, sports and entertainment offerings, receive a video almost instantly and then pause, fast forward or reverse at any time. Redundancy mechanisms built into the software would allow a single server or a set of servers to fail without the viewer missing "a single frame" of the movie, Mundie said. Ultimately the technology could support an array of services such as "video mail," interactive shopping and games, officials said.