Cable firms to test Microsoft TV software

The nation's two largest cable operators will test Microsoft Corp.'s digital television software with some of their subscribers under agreements to be announced today.

Although limited in scope, the trials by Comcast Cable and Time Warner Cable could serve as a beachhead for Microsoft TV as it attempts to take on the TV Guide Interactive software that dominates the digital-cable market. Microsoft hopes the trials will lead to broader agreements with the companies and others.

"There's a potential here to do something Microsoft hasn't been able to do up to this point, which is to actually prove that their television products are going to be useful in the U.S. cable business," said Josh Bernoff, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "It's a necessary first step."

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer is expected to announce the trials during a speech this morning to a gathering of the national Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing in downtown Seattle.

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