Microsoft has teamed up with consumer electronics firm Thomson to launch set-top boxes supporting Microsoft TV's Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) software platform.
The system allows network operators to deliver pay-TV services such as broadcast and on-demand television, as well as interactive content, over existing broadband networks.
Microsoft's IPTV platform and Thomson's IP1001 and RCA IP1000 set-top boxes run the Windows CE embedded operating system.
The units are based on Thomson's advanced-compression video delivery platform, and incorporate an Intel Pentium III processor running at 933MHz.
They also include an Intel 830M4 graphics chipset to provide the processing power needed to decode advanced codecs and produce high-quality pictures and sound.
Both set-top boxes support current and next-generation video codecs including MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2, Windows Media 9 Series and MPEG-4 Part 10 AVC (H.264/JVT).
Microsoft said that the set-top boxes are available now for all its IPTV trial customers, including Bell Canada, Reliance Infocomm, SBC Communications and Swisscom/Bluewin.
Switzerland-based Bluewin is the first customer to conduct a market trial of the platform.
Michael Zumsteg, head of expanded business at Bluewin, said that the set-top boxes would be used to deliver TV services across 30 channels, including five pay-TV channels, to the firm's trial base of over 600 customers.